Personal Rule


The Altar Question

William Laud, Archbishop Of Canterbury 1633-45

The Altar Question

Most churches had a communion table in the middle of the church, this was seen as a Protestant way of doing things. The Altar at the east end of the Church was separate from the congregation. It was seen as a symbol of the Roman Catholic attitude to communion.                   The communion table was not always respected. It was reported that in some Parishes the congregation left hats on the table

Laud was determined that the altar should be put in a special place. He ordered that the communion table/altar should be removed to the east end of the church and railed off. He thought only the minister should approach it. 

In some ways Laud could be seen as a reformer, but for the puritan-minded this instruction was seen as another sign that Laud was in sympathy of the Roman Catholics and their ideas.

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Reasons to oppose Laud

Reasons for opposition to Laud

Laud provoked opposition among a wide range of people who objected and feared his policies. Many of the gentry who were not particularly strongly puritan still found themselves opposing Laud becasuse of his power in the Royal council 

Lauds belief in Divine Right

He believed in divine right and he associated himself fully with Charles' policies in the 1630's. The policies caused opposition among most of the population. Laudian churchmen preached sermons supporting divine right and absolute obidience to the royal will. 

Lauds choice of religious ceremonies 

His views on religious ceremonies, Priests clothes, bowing at the name of Jesus and beautifying churches ran up against very deep rooted prejudices, or attitudes, among Puritans. Many thought the religious ceremonies were a return to Roman Catholic ceremonies. The ritual of the Laudian church seemed to be the same as Roman Catholic Church and the Laudians were suspected of being secret papists. 

Laud and Roman Catholicism 

He was not a Roman Catholic, he just didn't share the prejudice towards by Roman Catholics held by most English people. Even the Pope thought that Laud's Church policies was swaying towards Rome. He had offered Laud the post of Cardinal (the highest rank a roman catholic priest can achieve apart from becoming Pope). Laud refused, the way he phrased it would not have been strong enough for the Puritans as he said he could not accept 'with Rome as it is'. This would have regarded by many as a very weak denunciation of the Roman Catholic Church.

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Laud's aim to raise the status of the clergy

He was determined to raise the status of the Parish Priest and make him more independent of the local Gentry. The Gentry was used to the Priests respecting them and following their wishes with services and not attempting to interfere with their authority. His aim to make them as 'equal as any gentleman in England' was much resented. The gentry often constructed their own private family pews in their local churches, which showed their status in the community by keeping them seperate from the 'lower orders' in the congregation. Laud ordered these pews to be removed, this caused the Gentry to feel humilated in their own private area.

Laud's background

He did not appear to be respectful to the social system. The authority he emphasised was that of the King. He was a 'self-made man', the son of a clothier and his two strongest allies among the Bishops Neile and Wren were both from humble backgrounds. Laud bullied the Star Chamber and High Commission. They were not used to being spoken to in this way by clergymen, even Archbishops should know their place.

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Conclusion to oppose Laud

Laud was seen as undermining not only the Protestant nature of the Church Of England but the social structure aswell. 

He raised strong feelings among the Puritan gentry. A puritan gentleman Sir Harbottle Grimston called him 'that pestilential stye of all filth'.

To some extent Laud only had himself to blame. He did not try to persuade the Gentry to co-operate in his reforms and he was NOT a compromiser. 

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Case of Burton, Prynne and Bastwick 1637

This case illustrates both Laud's indifference to 'public opinion' and his determination to show the power of the church. The three gentlemen were punished for publishing false statements (libels) against the Bishops, although they were gentlemen they were treated like common criminals having their ears clipped and standing in the Pillory (wooden block which trapped neck and hands)

If this punishment was to silence the opposition to Lauds policies, it backfired.

A vast crowd spread flowers in their path and dipped their handkerchiefs in the blood from their severed ears; they were generally regarded as martyrs (someone killed for their beliefs) for the protestant-puritan cause.

The punishment of gentlemen in this way was seen by the gentry as a threat to their social position, Prynne warned whilst in the pillory 'look to yourselves gentlement, for you will be next'

Lauds policies therefore were creating opposition not only on account of puritanism but because these were Puritan gentlemen who would not have been expected to be humiliated in this way.

In response to having his ear severed Prynne, Bastwick and Burton wrote a series of pamphlets attacking Laud. 

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Laud's influence

The belief grew that Laud was a secret Roman Catholic subverting the church and the order of society, and supporting the absolutist policies in the state. 

Laud sat in every royal court as well as church courts such as High Commission. He even sat in on the commission for Enclosure, fining gentry who had enclosed common land. 

Star Chamber (royal court) was diliked and Laud used Star Chamber to punish his political enemies. He also made sure that the powers of Church Courts all over the country were used to the full. 

Archbishop Abbott and the Elizebethan Archbishops had tended to let the power of Church courts die. Laud was determined to reinforce them. 

The appointment of a bishop, Juxon, as Lord Treasurer in 1636 was seen as another sign that the church was taking over the machinery of government. 

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1633 The 'Book of Sports'

The puritans objected to most activities on sundays except Bible reading and attendance at Church services or lectures by Puritan lecturers. 

Laud re-issued the Book of Sports in 1633 encouraging dancing, archery and other activites on sundays after church services. 

Some rural communities probably welcomed these, others were outraged


There was an 'over production' of theology(religion) graduates from the universites of Oxford and Cambridge. Some of them could not find a post as a parish minister therefore they became lecturers. They were being paid to give lectures to puritan minded groups after 'official' church on a sunday. 

Laud was suspicious of lecturers beause he thought their ideas would be too purtian and possibly subversive. 

The Ratsbane of Lecturing came into play. He took away licensing from lecturers. Many groups who had subscribed to the salary of a lecturer were outraged.

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Finance during Personal Rule- Charles raising mone

Charles has to find new ways of raising money during his personal rule with the absense of Parliamentary subsidies. War could not go ahead without subsidies, it was simply too expensive. He lost no time in making peace with France 1630 and Spain 1631.

Charles raised money in the following ways:

Forest Fines

People living in areas that had been royal forest- in the distant past- were fined even though they had no idea that where they lived belonged to the king. The biggest fine was on the Earl of Sailsbury, who was fined £20,000 for 'enroaching' on royal forest, but many landowners were fined smaller sums.

Distraint of Knighthood

James' policy of selling knighthoods had made the honour unattractive but Charles still found a way of making money honours without selling them. Those who had refused Knighthood were fined for 'distraint of Knighthood'(refusing to accept the honour of knighthood therefore insulting the king). This caused great offence as Knighthoods had been sold for £30 under James and many country gentry regarded the honour as not worth having

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London grew rapidly in this period. In theory there should have been no building outside the city walls of London however this was ignored. Many people had built houses outside the walls without any control. Those who had done this were forced to buy a license to commit a nuisance or in other words pay for planning permission after the event.


These reappeared in different forms. One of the most resented being the soap monopoly. This led to a rather modern test in 1634: clothes were washed in monopolists' soap and 'free enterprise' soap to see which washed whiter. The monopolists soap failed the test but the public still had to buy it. Despite the Monopolies act in 1624 other monopolies reappeared and aroused much resentment as previous monopolies had done. 


1632 the city of London was fined for failing to push forward the plantation of Ulster. It should have found protestant families to take over land in Ireland. 

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Customs Farmers

Hated customs farmers gave the crown a larger sum in exchange for the right to collect customs but, of course, passed on the costs to the merchants.

The Court of Wards 

The much disliked Court of Wards doubled its income in this period to £76,000. 

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Ship Money

This is the one tax that caused the most opposition. In theory coastal counties were required to provide ships for royal service in times of emergency, almost always in wartime. In practice coastal counties charged most inhabitants a rate and then sent money rather than ships.The JP's normally set and collected the rate. 

In 1634 sherieffs were required to collect the ship money even though England was NOT at war. They were told the money was needed to protect coastal shipping against pirates. In 1635 ship money was required from all counties on the basis that the charge of defence which concerneth all men ought to be supported by all. EVERY YEAR from 1634 to 1640 ship money was collected, in the first three years raising about £190,000 a year all of it was spent on the navy. 

Issues to Ship Money

It was new to inland counties                                                                                                   It became a permanent tax, not an emergency tax, and seemed to become part of the regular royal income                                                                                                                           The navy was seen to be used not to protect against piracy, but to convoy Spanish ships.         Nearly everyone paid it

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Hampden's Case 1637

John Hampden, a Buckinghamshire gentlemen, refused to pay ship money. Sheriffs had experienced some difficulties in collecting ship money therefore he became a test case. 

The arguement revolved around whether the King had the right to declare an emergency and then tax his subjects. In theory he had however making it a permenant tax he had weakened the argument that there was an emergency. 

The problem was, if the King did not have the right to decide when there was an emergency, who should? 

If it were found that the King did not have the right to decide when there was an emergency, this would take away one of his constitutional rights over foreign policy and defence.

In the event the judges decided seven to five in favour of the King. The fact that the five judges, all royal appointments, decided against the crown was seen as significant and took the shine off the Kings victory.

It was seen as the first nail in the coffin in the personal rule as it encouraged others to resist royal demands. 

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Successes and Failures of Charles' financial polic

His financial policies certainly caused resentment in the 1630's. Not only did people not like to pay taxes but because of the high-handed and legally dubious methods of fund raising. 

Provided Charles did not go to war he could survive by using these methods. 

Portland, Treasurer until 1636 increased crown revenue by some 25% and made some reduction in the royal debt. Although in debt to the tune of £1,000,000 Charles did in theory have the finances to continue with personal rule.

He could not afford to go to war, so his freedom of action was limited. He needed parliamentary subsidies if he were to have an active foreign policy or he needed loans from the city of London. Royal financial policies had alienated the city in 1620's and 30's. The only group said to be Crown supporters were customs farmers. When the scottish crisis came Charles did not have an financial room to manoeuvre, no one would lend him money.


Compared to some continental monarchs Charles was solvent, but only in a limited sense. Personal rule can be seen as a period of 'financial standstill'. A strong financially independent monarchy was not created until 1630's. Charles could only balance the books by not going to war, which he could not afford.

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Court Charles I- Charles and Henrietta Maria

Charles was a very private man and a poor communicator. He preferred to surround himself with a small circle of advisers and courtiers unlike James' court which was an open one. 

After the death of Buckingham, the tone of the court became far more moral, possibly reflecting Charles' new found affection for Henrietta Maria. They became a devoted couple and only differed on one issue RELIGION

She continued not only to be a convinced catholic herself, but to try to persuade members of the court to convert. 

In 1627 Charles sent scores of her Catholic attendants back to France but he was unable to persuade her of the virtues of the Church Of England, which of course she regarded as a heretic church. 

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Henrietta Maria's influence

After Buckinghams death she was a considerable influence on Charles. From letters she sent to Charles leading up to the civil war it showed she was not afraid to speak her mind. However to conclude that Charles was consistently under her influence would be unfair. 

She detested Laud and Strafford yet Charles trusted them. 

However he appears to have done little to prevent the appearance of a 'catholic convert' ring of Catholics at court (Henrietta Maria had her own chapel, some courtiers such as Portland and Windibank converted to being catholic maybe to partly gain influence with her). Once Portland and Windibank had converted they were regarded by the country gentry with the greatest suspicion. 

James' court had been seen by the gentry as corrupt and immoral, but James did go hunting round the country and was seen by his subjects however Charles' court was 'cleaned up' after Buckinghams death but became a closed inner circle. Charles did not visit the houses of the Aristocracy and gentry as James had, and the gentry did not come to court.

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The Culture Of The Court

The culture of the court set it apart from the rest of the country. 

Charles' favoured court architect was Inigo Jones, whose 'neo-classical' style was revolutionary in English terms. It was Jones who put the front on St Pauls Cathedral, and built the Queens Roman Catholic Chapel, the banqueting hall in Whitehall and the Queen's house in Greenwich. 

The banqueting hall would remind people of a European style associated with continental asolutist monarchs. The ceiling painted by Ruebens in 1635 has a rather worried-looking James ascending to Heaven. It portays divine nature of monarchy as Charles saw it.

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The Court and Catholicism

The Court in the 1630's bore little resemblance to the lives, prejudices and beliefs of the majority of Charles' subjects. It was seen by many as being not only extravagant but also papist.

The Death of Gustavus Adolphus

Charles refused to allow the court to go into mourning over the loss of of King Gustavus II Adolphus in 1632. This was despite the fact that it was the normal thing to do for courts to go into mourning over a death of a European monarch, friend or enemy. Charles' refusal only served to confirm the country view of a papist pro-spanish court.

Two papal ambassadors attended the court in the late 1630's. No papal representatives had been in England since the break from Rome in 1529.

The court became isolated and dangerously out of touch from the nation- a closed circle whose tastes and attitudes were alien to outsiders. 

In 1632 Charles ordered the gentry to leave the court and live on their estates. By 1639 they had no first hand knowledge of the court; there was no one to check the rumours of popery and foreign influence.

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The Thirty Years War

In 1630-31 Charles had made peace with France and Spain, with no parliament Charles' foreign policy options were limited. If he wished to he could not afford to interfere actively in the thirty years war.

Parliaments View

Despite the fail of Parliament in the 1620's to provide funds for a land-based campaign in Europe in support of the Protestant cause, the country gentry still saw the war in Europe as being a struggle between the forces of true religion-the dutch republic, sweden and the protestant german states- the forces of the 'anit christ'- the hapsburgs and the spanish.

Charles View

He simply did not share his view. He admired the absolutist states of Spain and Austria and disliked the rebellious Dutch Republic. Despite Henrietta Maria's desire for a pro-french policy Charles pursued a Pro- Spanish policy. 

As far as the country was concerned, England should have been supporting the Dutch co-religionists. The pro-spanish policy was opposed in court in 1640's. In the late 1630's the unpopularity of ship money and resistance to its payment were connected with the use that Charles actually made of the fleet that his subjects were reluctantly paying for

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Factors which restricted Charles

With no army and no means of paying for one, Charles had few forgein policy options in the 1630's. 

In the view of the devastation of continental Europe, his decision to stay out of the 30 year war can be seen as perfectly natural. Foreign observers remarked on the peace and tranquility England enjoyed in this period. 

Charles experience with Parliaments in the 1620's was such that he could have been justifiably wary about committing England to war for the protestant cause.

His important misjudgement was not to persue a 'neutrality' that was not even-handed and was to be remembered in 1640-42 as part of a pro catholic conspiracy.

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The downfall of the Personal Rule

The Scottish Crisis

It is an open question whether Charles would have continued to rule without Parliament had he not been overcome by the Scottish Crisis, a crisis of his own making. Events in Scotland shaped events in England between 1637 and 1640

Charles had already aroused deep resentment and suspicion among the scottish nobles, and as time went on things went from bad to worse.


Scotland was more fuedal than England, with great landowners and clan chiefs abe to command the obedience of a large part of the population                                                                      Scotland was a more protestant country than England, especially in low lands. The scotland bishops had always kept down ceremonies because of deeply held views.                              When Charles decided to enforce Laudianism in Scotland he was met by fierce resistance.

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1625- Charles had issued an Act of Revocation, cancelling all grants of royal land and of church land made since 1540.

This affected many scottish landowners, who were unsure whether they would be allowed to keep land that was legally theirs. Church land was issue that split over into religion. Not only did the landowners see themselves as rightful owners of land that had belonged to a church that had been swept away, but they feared that if Church land returned to the church it could be the first step to creating a rich stong church again, on the Roman Catholic model.

The Act of Revocation worried the English Gentry who had acquired Church lands in the past 100 years. They thought Charles might find some legal device to do the same thing in England. 

Laud would have welcomed such a move.

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Laudianism and the new Prayer Book

Charles coronation took place in Edinburgh in 1633 and was conducted with high-church Laudian ceremonial. 

This offended the views of the scots. Laud was determined to bring the scottish church into line with what was happening down in English churches. 

In 1636 Laud used a royal proclaimation to issue new canons on the conduct of services, without reference to the general assembly of the scottish church.

1637 a version of the new 1633 English Prayer Book was introduced. It proved to be the spark that set scotland aflame.

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The Scottish National Covenant 1638

In february 1638 the Scottish National Covenant was drawn up. 

It rejected the canons and prayer book and eventually opened the way to thoroughgoing Presbytarianism.

It was left vague enough for nearly everyone to sign it, as it did not specifically outlaw Bishops. 

For Charles the Covenant spelt open rebellion. Charles seemed to be prepared to negotiate with the Scottish Covenanters however he was 'stringing them along' whilst he prepared for war.

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Scotland prepares

The scots despite Hamilton's (great scottish landowner, he was Charles' commissioner in Scotland and negotiated with the Scottish convenanters) negotiations, became more determined. 

November 1638- The Scottish National Assembly abolished the High Commission and removed all Bishops. They also started to raise an army as they were well aware that Charles was doing the same. The difference was the Scottish army had a good percentage of professional scottish soldiers who had been fighting in the Thirty Years' War

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Weaknesses in the English Army

As early as 1628 Charles had called for 'perfect militias'. These had to be paid for by local taxes. The actual training and equipment of the militias were of poor quality.

Most militia men never fired their weapons. In order to save money dry firing took place. The men practiced the loading and aiming without any gunpowder. The Cambridgeshire militia i.e had the wrong calibre musket balls for their weapons and half the pikes were useless as the heads had fallen off rotten poles

Professional soldiers were supposed to train the new upcoming militias however counties often refused to pay their salaries so they drifted off. The gentry, if they had any interest in the miltias were not prepared to take advice from Low born soldiers; they commanded their militia companies because of the status it gave them in country society not because they were interested in creating a perfectly trained militia. 

The rank and file were usually poor soldiers, disliked marching out of their own districts, and deserted in large numbers. Many had sympathy for the Scots who were seen as fellow suffers and few wanted to fight for the hated Laudian Prayer Book 

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The First Bishops War 1639

1639- Charles spent £185,00 on military operations, while his commander Earl of Arundel found himself unable to launch a successful offesive.

Arundel did not improve matters by riding to meet his troops in a coach lent by the papal nuncio, with the papal coat of arms on the doors. This only confirmed the idea that this was a papist war against honest protestants. Charles, his advisers and ministers misunderstood 'public opinion' 

To try and improve matters the Earl of Strafford was recalled from Ireland, but he could not retrieve the situation. In these circumstances Strafford, perhaps out of touch with English affairs after having being so long in Ireland, advised the King to call Parliament, expecting, in this crisis, that traditional loyalty to the Crown would reassert itself and a Parliament would vote money for an offensive crush to the Scottish rebellion. The city of London had a poor reltionship with Charles and was not prepared to lend him money.

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Options for Charles

Military costs were estimated ar £600,000 for 1640 and his high-handed treatment of the City of London came home to roost when a request for a Loan of £100,000 was rejected and a £10,000 gift offered instead. 

When Charles did call Parliament it wasnt because he was into the idea of partnership between Crown and Parliament. Neither had he come to see Personal Rule as a mistake. He called Parliament because he had no choice, only Parliament could provide the funds for war to reassert royal authority in Scotland.

End Of Personal Rule!

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