The first and second Civil Wars: Reasons for Parliamentary success and royalist defeat; the balance of economic forces

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TOPIC TWO: The first and second Civil Wars: Reasons for Parliamentary success and royalist defeat; the balance of economic forces

Parliamentary Opposition 1640-41

  • Long Parliament’s first session: opened 3rd November 1640

    • General agreement in Parliament

    • Concerned mainly with curbing the King’s power

    • Many Acts of Parliament to destroy the personal rule

    • possibility of harmony between Parliament and the King?

    • Pym warned that the country faced a possibility of a Catholic conspiracy - the gov. wanted war between England and Scotland, absolutism in Ireland and using Irish army to enforce order in Ireland

    • King’s ministers accused of high treason

      • Strafford + Laud impeached and imprisoned, awaiting trial

      • Parliament threatened to impeach any sheriff of customs officer who had collected ship money or Tonnage and Poundage - many courtiers fled in fear of their lives

Execution of Strafford

  • Opening months of Long Parliament focused on the impeachment of Strafford, collecting evidence for his trial before the HoL

  • Worried that bishops in the HoL would be reluctant to go against loyalty to an old master and find him guilty

  • Root and Branch petition - questioned the presence of the Bishops in the HoL by calling for the abolition of an episcopal government a controversy (religion shows itself as a divisive issue)

  • If Strafford had survived, he could “turn the tables”, on Parliament’s leaders, he knew that many of them had been in communication with the Scots during the Bishop’s wars, the trial was risk

  • However, his death was essential to the success of Parliament’s programme of reform

Trial: 22 March 1641

  • Strafford accused of trying to establish “arbitrary government” (gov. without consent) committing treason by dividing the King and his subjects, and “constructive treason” (attempting to rule the kingdom by force)

  • Strafford’s defense: each charge had to be taken on its own merits, the charges did not amount to high treason

  • Reluctant to find him guilty of treason, many had been in Privy Council meetings from which evidence was being drawn (could put them in a bad position) a trial on the brink of falling apart

The bill of attainder: 10th April (proposed)

  • Commons abandoned impeachment - avoided a “not guilty” verdict from the HoL (who are still reluctant to condemn one of their own men

  • Declared the earl a traitor, but the King would have to sign his own death warrant - forced the King to take personal responsibility

  • Pym revealed a group officers, with support from Charles, had planned a coup d’etat to use the army to free Strafford and forcibly dissolve parliament

    • 3rd May Charles send 100 soldiers to the Tower Of London, but it was defended and the army plot collapsed

    • The Lords were persuaded to pass the Bill of Attainder

  • Strafford wrote to the King expressing hope that his death would restore order to the Kingdom

  • King consulted the privy council, who advised him to sign Strafford’s death warrant - Charles always regarded this as his one true sin, for which he was punished for by God through


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