died of a stroke in 1625 after ruling Scotland for 58 years and England for

22 years.

James was profoundly affected by his years as a boy in Scottish court.

Murder and intrigue had plagued the Scottish throne throughout the reigns

of his mother and grandfather (James V) and had no less bearing during

James's rule. His father had been butchered mere months after James' birth

by enemies of Mary and Mary, because of her indiscretions and Catholic

faith, was forced to abdicate the throne. Thus, James developed a guarded

manner. He was thrilled to take the English crown and leave the strictures

and poverty of the Scottish court.

James' twenty-nine years of Scottish kingship did little to prepare him

for the English monarchy: England and Scotland, rivals for superiority on

the island since the first emigration of the Anglo-Saxon races, virtually

hated each other. This inherent mistrust, combined with Catholic-Protestant

and Episcopal-Puritan tensions, severely limited James' prospects of a

truly successful reign. His personality also caused problems: he was witty

and well-read, fiercely believed in the divine right of kingship and his

own importance, but found great difficulty in gaining acceptance from an

English society that found his rough-hewn manners and natural paranoia

quite unbecoming. James saw little use for Parliament. His extravagant

spending habits and nonchalant ignoring of the nobility's grievances kept

king and Parliament constantly at odds. He came to the thrown at the zenith

of monarchical power, but never truly grasped the depth and scope of that


Religious dissension was the basis of an event that confirmed and fueled

James' paranoia: the Gunpowder Plot of November 5, 1605. Guy Fawkes and

four other Catholic dissenters were caught attempting to blow up the House

of Lords on a day in which the king was to open the session. The

conspirators were executed, but a fresh wave of anti-Catholic sentiments

washed across England. James also disliked the Puritans who became

excessive in their demands on the king, resulting in the first wave of

English immigrants to North America. James, however, did manage to

commission an Authorized Version of the Bible, printed in English in 1611.

The relationship between king and Parliament steadily eroded. Extravagant

spending (particularly on James' favorites), inflation and bungled foreign

policies discredited James in the eyes of Parliament. Parliament flatly

refused to disburse funds to a king who ignored their concerns and were

annoyed by rewards lavished on favorites and great amounts spent on

decoration. James awarded over 200 peerages (landed titles) as,

essentially, bribes designed to win loyalty, the most controversial of

which was his creation of George Villiers (his closest advisor and

homosexual partner) as Duke of Buckingham. Buckingham was highly

influential in foreign policy, which failed miserably. James tried to

kindle Spanish relations by seeking a marriage between his son Charles and

the Spanish Infanta (who was less than receptive to the clumsy overtures of

Charles and Buckingham), and by executing Sir Walter Raleigh at the behest

of Spain.

James was not wholly unsuccessful as king, but his Scottish background

failed to translate well into a changing English society. He is described,

albeit humorously, in 1066 and All That, as such: "James I slobbered at the

mouth and had favourites; he was thus a bad king"; Sir Anthony Weldon made

a more somber observation: "He was very crafty and cunning in petty things,

as the circumventing any great man, the change of a Favourite, &c. inasmuch

as a very wise man was wont to say, he believed him the very wisest fool in


CHARLES I (1625-49)

Charles I was born in Fife on 19 November 1600, the second son of James

VI of Scotland (from 1603 also James I of England) and Anne of Denmark. He

became heir to the throne on the death of his brother, Prince Henry, in

1612. He succeeded, as the second Stuart King of England, in 1625.

Controversy and disputes dogged Charles throughout his reign. They

eventually led to civil wars, first with the Scots from 1637 and later in

England (1642-46 and 1648). The Civil Wars deeply divided people at the

time, and historians still disagree about the real causes of the conflict,

but it is clear that Charles was not a successful ruler.

Charles was reserved (he had a residual stammer), self-righteous and had

a high concept of royal authority, believing in the divine right of kings.

He was a good linguist and a sensitive man of refined tastes. He spent a

lot on the arts, inviting the artists Van Dyck and Rubens to work in

England, and buying a great collection of paintings by Raphael and Titian

(this collection was later dispersed under Cromwell). His expenditure on

his court and his picture collection greatly increased the crown's debts.

Indeed, crippling lack of money was a key problem for both the early Stuart


Charles was also deeply religious. He favoured the high Anglican form of

worship, with much ritual, while many of his subjects, particularly in

Scotland, wanted plainer forms. Charles found himself ever more in

disagreement on religious and financial matters with many leading citizens.

Having broken an engagement to the Spanish infanta, he had married a Roman

Catholic, Henrietta Maria of France, and this only made matters worse.

Although Charles had promised Parliament in 1624 that there would be no

advantages for recusants (people refusing to attend Church of England

services), were he to marry a Roman Catholic bride, the French insisted on

a commitment to remove all disabilities upon Roman Catholic subjects.

Charles's lack of scruple was shown by the fact that this commitment was

secretly added to the marriage treaty, despite his promise to Parliament.

Charles had inherited disagreements with Parliament from his father, but

his own actions (particularly engaging in ill-fated wars with France and

Spain at the same time) eventually brought about a crisis in 1628-29. Two

expeditions to France failed - one of which had been led by Buckingham, a

royal favourite of both James I and Charles I, who had gained political

influence and military power. Such was the general dislike of Buckingham,

that he was impeached by Parliament in 1628, although he was murdered by a

fanatic before he could lead the second expedition to France. The political

controversy over Buckingham demonstrated that, although the monarch's right

to choose his own Ministers was accepted as an essential part of the royal

prerogative, Ministers had to be acceptable to Parliament or there would be

repeated confrontations. The King's chief opponent in Parliament until 1629

was Sir John Eliot, who was finally imprisoned in the Tower of London until

his death in 1632.

Tensions between the King and Parliament centred around finances, made

worse by the costs of war abroad, and by religious suspicions at home

(Charles's marriage was seen as ominous, at a time when plots against

Elizabeth I and the Gunpowder Plot in James I's reign were still fresh in

the collective memory, and when the Protestant cause was going badly in the

war in Europe). In the first four years of his rule, Charles was faced with

the alternative of either obtaining parliamentary funding and having his

policies questioned by argumentative Parliaments who linked the issue of

supply to remedying their grievances, or conducting a war without subsidies

from Parliament. Charles dismissed his fourth Parliament in March 1629 and

decided to make do without either its advice or the taxes which it alone

could grant legally.

Although opponents later called this period 'the Eleven Years' Tyranny',

Charles's decision to rule without Parliament was technically within the

King's royal prerogative, and the absence of a Parliament was less of a

grievance to many people than the efforts to raise revenue by non-

parliamentary means. Charles's leading advisers, including William Laud,

Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Earl of Strafford, were efficient but

disliked. For much of the 1630s, the King gained most of the income he

needed from such measures as impositions, exploitation of forest laws,

forced loans, wardship and, above all, ship money (extended in 1635 from

ports to the whole country). These measures made him very unpopular,

alienating many who were the natural supporters of the Crown.

Scotland (which Charles had left at the age of 3, returning only for his

coronation in 1633) proved the catalyst for rebellion. Charles's attempt to

impose a High Church liturgy and prayer book in Scotland had prompted a

riot in 1637 in Edinburgh which escalated into general unrest. Charles had

to recall Parliament; however, the Short Parliament of April 1640 queried

Charles's request for funds for war against the Scots and was dissolved

within weeks. The Scots occupied Newcastle and, under the treaty of Ripon,

stayed in occupation of Northumberland and Durham and they were to be paid

a subsidy until their grievances were redressed.

Charles was finally forced to call another Parliament in November 1640.

This one, which came to be known as The Long Parliament, started with the

imprisonment of Laud and Strafford (the latter was executed within six

months, after a Bill of Attainder which did not allow for a defence), and

the abolition of the King's Council (Star Chamber), and moved on to declare

ship money and other fines illegal. The King agreed that Parliament could

not be dissolved without its own consent, and the Triennial Act of 1641

meant that no more than three years could elapse between Parliaments.

The Irish uprising of October 1641 raised tensions between the King and

Parliament over the command of the Army. Parliament issued a Grand

Remonstrance repeating their grievances, impeached 12 bishops and attempted

to impeach the Queen. Charles responded by entering the Commons in a failed

attempt to arrest five Members of Parliament, who had fled before his

arrival. Parliament reacted by passing a Militia Bill allowing troops to be

raised only under officers approved by Parliament. Finally, on 22 August

1642 at Nottingham, Charles raised the Royal Standard calling for loyal

subjects to support him (Oxford was to be the King's capital during the

war). The Civil War, what Sir William Waller (a Parliamentary general and

moderate) called 'this war without an enemy', had begun.

The Battle of Edgehill in October 1642 showed that early on the fighting

was even. Broadly speaking, Charles retained the north, west and south-west

of the country, and Parliament had London, East Anglia and the south-east,

although there were pockets of resistance everywhere, ranging from solitary

garrisons to whole cities. However, the Navy sided with Parliament (which

made continental aid difficult), and Charles lacked the resources to hire

substantial mercenary help.

Parliament had entered an armed alliance with the predominant Scottish

Presbyterian group under the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643, and from

1644 onwards Parliament's armies gained the upper hand - particularly with

the improved training and discipline of the New Model Army. The Self-

Denying Ordinance was passed to exclude Members of Parliament from holding

army commands, thereby getting rid of vacillating or incompetent earlier

Parliamentary generals. Under strong generals like Sir Thomas Fairfax and

Oliver Cromwell, Parliament won victories at Marston Moor (1644) and Naseby

(1645). The capture of the King's secret correspondence after Naseby showed

the extent to which he had been seeking help from Ireland and from the

Continent, which alienated many moderate supporters.

In May 1646, Charles placed himself in the hands of the Scottish Army

(who handed him to the English Parliament after nine months in return for

arrears of payment - the Scots had failed to win Charles's support for

establishing Presbyterianism in England). Charles did not see his action as

surrender, but as an opportunity to regain lost ground by playing one group

off against another; he saw the monarchy as the source of stability and

told parliamentary commanders 'you cannot be without me: you will fall to

ruin if I do not sustain you'. In Scotland and Ireland, factions were

arguing, whilst in England there were signs of division in Parliament

between the Presbyterians and the Independents, with alienation from the

Army (where radical doctrines such as that of the Levellers were

threatening commanders' authority). Charles's negotiations continued from

his captivity at Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight (to which he had

'escaped' from Hampton Court in November 1647) and led to the Engagement

with the Scots, under which the Scots would provide an army for Charles in

exchange for the imposition of the Covenant on England. This led to the

second Civil War of 1648, which ended with Cromwell's victory at Preston in


The Army, concluding that permanent peace was impossible whilst Charles

lived, decided that the King must be put on trial and executed. In

December, Parliament was purged, leaving a small rump totally dependent on

the Army, and the Rump Parliament established a High Court of Justice in

the first week of January 1649. On 20 January, Charles was charged with

high treason 'against the realm of England'. Charles refused to plead,

saying that he did not recognise the legality of the High Court (it had

been established by a Commons purged of dissent, and without the House of

Lords - nor had the Commons ever acted as a judicature).

The King was sentenced to death on 27 January. Three days later, Charles

was beheaded on a scaffold outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall,

London. The King asked for warm clothing before his execution: 'the season

is so sharp as probably may make me shake, which some observers may imagine

proceeds from fear. I would have no such imputation.' On the scaffold, he

repeated his case: 'I must tell you that the liberty and freedom [of the

people] consists in having of Government, those laws by which their life

and their goods may be most their own. It is not for having share in

Government, Sir, that is nothing pertaining to them. A subject and a

sovereign are clean different things. If I would have given way to an

arbitrary way, for to have all laws changed according to the Power of the

Sword, I needed not to have come here, and therefore I tell you ... that I

am the martyr of the people.' His final words were 'I go from a corruptible

to an incorruptible Crown, where no disturbance can be.'

The King was buried on 9 February at Windsor, rather than Westminster

Abbey, to avoid public disorder. To avoid the automatic succession of

Charles I's son Charles, an Act was passed on 30 January forbidding the

proclaiming of another monarch. On 7 February 1649, the office of King was

formally abolished.

The Civil Wars were essentially confrontations between the monarchy and

Parliament over the definitions of the powers of the monarchy and

Parliament's authority. These constitutional disagreements were made worse

by religious animosities and financial disputes. Both sides claimed that

they stood for the rule of law, yet civil war was by definition a matter of

force. Charles I, in his unwavering belief that he stood for constitutional

and social stability, and the right of the people to enjoy the benefits of

that stability, fatally weakened his position by failing to negotiate a

compromise with Parliament and paid the price. To many, Charles was seen as

a martyr for his people and, to this day, wreaths of remembrance are laid

by his supporters on the anniversary of his death at his statue, which

faces down Whitehall to the site of his execution.


Cromwell's convincing military successes at Drogheda in Ireland (1649),

Dunbar in Scotland (1650) and Worcester in England (1651) forced Charles

I's son, Charles, into foreign exile despite being accepted as King in


From 1649 to 1660, England was therefore a republic during a period known

as the Interregnum ('between reigns'). A series of political experiments

followed, as the country's rulers tried to redefine and establish a

workable constitution without a monarchy.

Throughout the Interregnum, Cromwell's relationship with Parliament was a

troubled one, with tensions over the nature of the constitution and the

issue of supremacy, control of the armed forces and debate over religious

toleration. In 1653 Parliament was dissolved, and under the Instrument of

Government, Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protector, later refusing the offer

of the throne. Further disputes with the House of Commons followed; at one

stage Cromwell resorted to regional rule by a number of the army's major

generals. After Cromwell's death in 1658, and the failure of his son

Richard's short-lived Protectorate, the army under General Monk invited

Charles I's son, Charles, to become King.


Oliver Cromwell, born in Huntingdon in 1599, was a strict Puritan with a

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