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The English Civil War



Charles I and Parliament

King Charles I and Parliament
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Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall;
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again.


The English Civil War, which is a bit of a misnomer as the Scots, Welsh and Irish fought too, was a struggle for power between King Charles I and Parliament. The quarrel started not long after Charles became king. He found Parliament difficult to work with, critical of his policies, and more of a hinderance than a help in governing. So, in 1629, he decided to rule without Parliament. This was permissable in law, though misguided, and Charles managed to govern the country without Parliament for eleven years. This period is known as The Personal Rule.

It was only when he needed money to fund a war in Scotland that Charles was forced to call Parliament. The Scots had taken to arms over church reforms Charles wished to impose and he needed money to send an army to control them. This conflict is known as The Bishop's Wars. But once Parliament was in session again, all the old problems, and more, surfaced. The ruling class were not happy with the way the King had ruled without Parliament for so long and wanted to bring him to brook for what they believed to have been abuses of his power and their privileges. The House of Commons declared that they would not grant money for the war in Scotland until their complaints had been addressed. Alarmed, and annoyed, the King quickly dissolved Parliament. As the Parliament had only lasted three weeks, it is known as The Short Parliament.

But Charles could not keep funding the war in Scotland without money so he was forced again to summon Parliament six months later. This was the beginning of the end for Charles. The Members were furious at the way Charles had conducted himself and wanted to restrict his power and authority. He was verging on a tyrant, they said, and was being ill advised by his trusted ministers, Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, and William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury. This Parliament, known as The Long Parliament because it was not officially dissoved until 1660, blamed them for everything and wanted them to pay for their wrongdoings. Within a week of the new Parliament, Strafford was arrested and sent to the Tower Of London. Not long after, Laud followed him.

Under the leadership of a man called John Pym, this Parliament passed laws that curbed royal authority. Charles was no longer allowed to dissolve Parliament or to rule without Parliament for longer than three years. New laws also restricted the King's right to raise taxes and gave Parliament control over the King's ministers. Pym tried to have Strafford convicted of treason, but this proved difficult because of his loyalty to the King, so he was condemned by a Bill of Attainder instead. This allowed Parliament to vote on whether he was guilty or not rather than having to prove his guilt with evidence. Pym got his way, and Strafford was found guilty, but many members were appalled at how Pym had twisted the law to get what he wanted and they turned to support Charles instead. Under pressure, Charles signed Strafford's death warrant, and Strafford was executed on the 12 May 1641. Pym's Parliament also abolished the royal courts of Star Chamber and High Commission, which were secular and ecclesiastical courts of law under the King's authority.



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