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The English Civil War: The Major Cause

Introduction

When studying the factors that might have led to the English Civil Wars, it is essential to consider that the conflicts did not begin as a revolution. The individuals who were actively involved did not wish for replacement of the Monarchy. Conflicting attitudes towards the royal power as well as religion resulted in a series of occurrences, which escalated into armed war. Charles the 1st trusted that his rule was divine and acquired by the will of God. This meant that he believed his decisions should not be questioned or opposed. There is a fraction of individuals who believed that the royal power should have a limit and therefore were against the ideology. The Parliament and the people desired a voice in the nation’s governance. In addition to this, there was a debate on religion matters and the church. In the arguments over the two issues, there was a great division on the religious practices, worship forms as well as organizational structure of the church. This paper looks at whether religion was responsible for the English Civil War.

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Discussion

Religion was a major factor in the start of the English Civil War. The war was just a part of the greater conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Europe. King Charles the 1st had married a French Catholic at the beginning of his reign. During the marriage, it was agreed upon by the two parties that the bride would be allowed to practice religion without restrictions. This was also given as a condition of the agreement that the king should remove restrictions against recusants. These were individuals who refrained from attending Anglican Church services. At the time of the marriage, the Roman Catholics were feared and distrusted which made the union unpopular among many.

Many people in the English saw the arrival of Queen Mary the 1st as a possible crisis to the lives of Protestants. Some of the past events that had led to the distrust include the England invasion by Phillip the 2nd of Spain in 1588 as well as the gunpowder plot to blow up James in 1605 in Parliament. It is noteworthy to remember that at this time, there was a continuing struggle between Catholics and Protestants whereby the former attempted to finish all the latter from the continent. The king preferred the Anglican Church services, its ways of worship using rituals as well as excessive ornamentation. He thought the hierarchy of priests and bishops was essential. This raised questions as it seemed that he was leaning towards the Roman Catholic traditions.

The Puritans doubted every move the king made concerning religion and the changes he tried to enforce. They wished for a purer way of worship without images, icons or rituals. They believed that they had an individual and close association with God plus did not require bishops. In 1633, the king appointed and declared William Laud the archbishop of Canterbury. Despite being a Protestant, Laud viewed the Puritans as being too extreme. Like the royal authority over England, he also preferred the Anglican way of worship that involved images, expensive ornamentation and rituals. He based his decision on imposing uniformity among worshippers in The Book of Common Prayer. He also viewed bishops as essential in the running of the church.

The new archbishop in England Laud wanted to rearrange how worship was carried out in the kingdom. To start his work, the target was bringing back the rituals and ceremonies that existed before which included reintroduction of statues as well as stained-glass windows. It became a requirement for a priest to wear a vestment as an indicator of the status of a clergy member. Instead of viewing this as beauty of holiness as the archbishop, the Puritans saw it as a plot to wipe away the Protestantism. The religious changes met a lot of criticism as well as opposition. Since the newly appointed archbishop viewed the opposition as a threat to the church, he opted for the courts.

The justice system in the kingdom wished to set example on criticism of the new policies by archbishop. In 1637, John Bastwick, William Prynne and Henry Burton were convicted for their critics of the new policies and guidelines. As a form of punishment, their cheeks were branded and ears cropped. The same year, Laud alongside the king imposed on the Scottish people another Prayer Book. The new book was a revised version of the English version one which led to riots breaking out in Edinburg. Presbyterians from Scotland believed that the book had much similarity to Roman Catholic’s prayer book which was directly attacking the Protestants and their freedom to choose their ways of worship.

The Scottish people believed that they had the right to choose how they wished to worship. Scotland had its own government, legislation as well as The Kirk which was an established church in Scotland. The king’s response was to stress on a complete execution of the new policies which included a new prayer book as well as punishment for anyone who did not abide as he viewed the refusal as questioning his power. The people of Scotland in 1638 signed an agreement that consisted of their promise to defend as well as preserve the true religion. One year later, the king attempting to enforce the new prayer book, sent an army to Scotland.

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The last resort the king had after receiving opposition from Scotland on his new proposed forms of worship was war. By sending the army, he was declaring war against fellow Protestants in his own kingdom. In what came to be known as the First Bishops’ War, the English army was defeated with ease. In the following war called the Second Bishops’ War, the king was yet again defeated. Consequently, the king was pushed to sign the Ripon Treaty that ensured the Covenanter troops receive eight hundred and fifty pounds daily in maintenance while still occupying northern England.

Other Factors

Another factor that led to the civil war was King Charles the 1st and his worrying financial situation. His father before him had lived a lavish lifestyle that had left the royal treasury with little finances. The finance needed to run the king’s household was much which added to the problem. The king was an arts patron and consumed more than enough money on musicians to entertain him as well as some money was spent on purchasing art works. In 1625, the House of Parliament had granted him tonnage as well as poundage for one year instead of for a lifetime as was the norm which meant he needed to call the house again to ask for more.

The Parliament during the reign of Charles the 1st had the power to choose whether or not to grant the king finances for war campaigns. However, the House refused his wish as he had planned to use some money on military wars against France and Spain. After being denied, he opted for a forced loan as a method of raising money he needed. A forced loan referred to the money obtained from taxes without the Parliament’s consent. Refusal to pay back forced loan led to imprisonment without need of a trial and this resulted in much disgruntlement. In 1628, a petition was filed which neither stipulated that the king could not without the Parliament’s permission ask for taxes from the subjects nor imprison anyone illogically. Even though the king at first consented to the petition, it was never implemented correctly as law.

Without the Parliament’s authorization, the king lacked any other means of getting finances. One year later after filing of the petition, he dismissed the Parliament and started what he termed as Personal Rule while opposition called it Eleven Years Tyranny. Because to obtain money, he had to go through the representatives, he decided to look for other ways. He exploited the royal prerogative as well as imposed knighthood charges on property owners of about forty pounds annually. Monopolies were sold to the rich traders although it was a prohibited act by the representatives. The forest territories were re-established to their early limits, so that he could levy forest fines on individuals who were found within the new territories.

The king engaged in wrong and ill-advised activities to raise finances for his campaigns. In 1635, he demanded ship money from every English county. A member of parliament found himself in the court for failing to pay ship money as he claimed that the king had no right according to law to collect the money. Most of the royal supporters started becoming unimpressed by the king as his popularity dwindled. After defeat in the first war campaign against Scotland, he summoned the representatives to raise money for a second campaign. For failure of being called in eleven years, they had an opportunity to present their issues and they also refused his wish.

Frustrations of defeat resulted in the king’s decision on dissolving the Parliament. After one month, the king dissolved the House of Representatives. After second defeat in the hands of the Scottish and being asked to pay a daily amount of eight hundred and fifty pounds to the Covenanter troops, he summoned the Parliament again. His financial status meant that only the representatives would be able to get him out of his huge debts. It also meant that they were the only ones who would help him pay the troops the money owed after failing twice in his campaigns against Scotland. This gave them a chance to relay their issues and push their agendas as well as reforms.

Conclusion

In the paper, it is clear that despite being other factors that led to the English civil war, religion was a major determinant. Before the start of the war, there had been an on-going battle between the Roman Catholics and Protestants in the European continent. For a long time, it was believed that individuals affiliated with Catholicism wished to eradicate those affiliated with Protestantism. The issue that started the war was after Charles I married a French woman who was a catholic. Many in the kingdom saw this as an ill-advised move and it proved so as later the king adopted religious forms that were similar to those of the Catholics. After appointing a new archbishop, he established a new prayer book that did not sit well with many. He even went ahead and issued a new prayer book to the Scottish who refused to use it. Since he was determined to enforce the book, the paper shows that he sent the English army to Scotland. This also proved to be a wrong move as the Scottish army defeated him twice.

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Bibliography

Downs, J. S. (2021). Civil war London: Mobilizing for parliament, 1641–5. In Civil war London. Manchester University Press. Web.

His Majesties Declaration to the Ministers…of York. (n.d.). Lukehistory. Web.

May, B., Critchley, R., Carr, D., Peare, A., & Dowen, K. (2020). Ballistic protective properties of material representative of English civil war buff-coats and clothing. International journal of legal medicine, 134(5), 1949-1956. Web.

Petition of Right 1628 < 1600-1650 < Documents < American History from Revolution to Reconstruction and Beyond. (2012). American History from Revolution to Reconstruction and Beyond. Web.

Prior, C. W. (2013). Religion, political thought and the English civil war. History Compass, 11(1), 24-42. Web.

Stoyle, M. (2021). ‘Extreme trials of fidelity’? Captain Bartholomew Gidley and royalist memories of the English Civil War. In Remembering the English Civil Wars (pp. 81-100). Routledge. Web.

Taipale, A. (2021). Religion and the battlefield in the first English Civil War (1642-1646): Instructing Soldiers and Dehumanising Enemies. Web.

Footnotes

1 Prior, C. W. (2013). Religion, political thought and the English civil war. History Compass, 11(1), 24-42. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/hic3.12025

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2 Prior, C. W. (2013). Religion, political thought and the English civil war. History Compass, 11(1), 24-42.

3 Taipale, A. (2021). Religion and the battlefield in the first English Civil War (1642-1646): Instructing Soldiers and Dehumanising Enemies.

4 Taipale, A. (2021). Religion and the battlefield in the first English Civil War (1642-1646): Instructing Soldiers and Dehumanising Enemies.

5 May, B., Critchley, R., Carr, D., Peare, A., & Dowen, K. (2020). Ballistic protective properties of material representative of English civil war buff-coats and clothing. International journal of legal medicine, 134(5), 1949-1956.

6 Prior, C. W. (2013). Religion, political thought and the English civil war. History Compass, 11(1), 24-42.

7 May, B., Critchley, R., Carr, D., Peare, A., & Dowen, K. (2020). Ballistic protective properties of material representative of English civil war buff-coats and clothing. International journal of legal medicine, 134(5), 1949-1956.

8 Taipale, A. (2021). Religion and the battlefield in the first English Civil War (1642-1646): Instructing Soldiers and Dehumanising Enemies.

9 Taipale, A. (2021). Religion and the battlefield in the first English Civil War (1642-1646): Instructing Soldiers and Dehumanising Enemies.

10 Stoyle, M. (2021). ‘Extreme trials of fidelity’? Captain Bartholomew Gidley and royalist memories of the English Civil War. In Remembering the English Civil Wars (pp. 81-100). Routledge.

11 His Majesties Declaration to the Ministers…of York. (n.d.). Lukehistory.

12 Taipale, A. (2021). Religion and the battlefield in the first English Civil War (1642-1646): Instructing Soldiers and Dehumanising Enemies.

13 Petition of Right 1628 < 1600-1650 < Documents < American History from Revolution to Reconstruction and Beyond. (2012). American History from Revolution to Reconstruction and Beyond.

14 Taipale, A. (2021). Religion and the battlefield in the first English Civil War (1642-1646): Instructing Soldiers and Dehumanising Enemies.

15 May, B., Critchley, R., Carr, D., Peare, A., & Dowen, K. (2020). Ballistic protective properties of material representative of English civil war buff-coats and clothing. International journal of legal medicine, 134(5), 1949-1956.

16 Downs, J. S. (2021). Civil war London: Mobilizing for parliament, 1641–5. In Civil war London. Manchester University Press.

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