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How far were the actions and beliefs of Charles responsible for the crisis of 1640

For eleven years Charles ruled without Parliament and in 1637 all seemed to be going well for him. He was financially stable, independent and, although his ways and means had made his popularity decrease, it wasn’t a problem that was of great worry to the king. He had more income than expenditure, and the country seemed stable, so was content with this albeit precarious balance for the time being. But by 1640 Charles was facing what can only be described as a major crisis. He found himself under the dominance of a Scottish rebellion army with no choice but to beg Parliament, or any other means, for help and money. His expenditure had rocketed and his income had decreased, and without help for the king, the Scottish army could soon be taking over his country, and with no funds or willing army himself Charles would be powerless to stop them. Charles, the monarchy and the country were in trouble. But just how did a seemingly stable situation become so critical?Although it seems like a relatively quick change in situation, there are many long term causes to consider. To begin with, what state the country was in when Charles inherited it of his father. James was a tactile, fair king who saw the advantages of keeping political harmony by avoiding unnecessary conflict so, for matters concerning the church, he would allow Puritans and Catholics to co-exist but to a controlled extent, and he was patient, cautious and gradually integrated the churches if England and Scotland. He received few complaints so religion was not a major cause of tension for him.There was irritation between James and Parliament due to disputes over rights and power, but James diffused a crisis, let matters drop to avoid conflict, and generally the relationship was good, due to his ability to maintain his clear views but compromise. Parliament wanted James to live off an ‘ordinary revenue’ from Crown Lands, wardship and justice among other things, but due to Elizabeth selling some of the Crown Lands, he was receiving else rent and he inherited a debt of over �100,000. He had a larger family than Elizabeth but he wasn’t known to be frugal with gifts and lavishness, which was why Parliament were reluctant to give him money but were scared that if he didn’t ask for any then he wouldn’t call Parliament at all, so money caused friction.Problems in Europe brought up more Parliament versus king power debates and also doubts over his dedication to Protestantism, with many fearing the Catholic threat and his reluctance to do anything about it. The 1621 Parliament were furious at James accusing them of overstepping the mark with their rights about war and his needless expenditure, so drew up a Protestation declaring their rights, and although it didn’t create crisis, it may have increased the chance of later Parliaments standing up for themselves and causes the king trouble. The court of James was full of corruption and scandal, with favouritism causing irritation, so Charles inherited an England that was fairly stable religiously but starting to worry about Catholic threat, a country that was falling fast into big debt and that had friction between king and Parliament so this did not give Charles the best start.But it would be unfair on James to lay too much blame on him because we must look at the character of Charles, now king of England. Growing up in the shadow of older brother Henry until Henry died when Charles was twelve, Charles was small, sickly and shy. He was not confident in his own abilities so heavily relied on the advice of others, allowing him to be easily influenced and manipulated. He liked order and formality, rules and morality. He was a devout protestant in his beliefs yet admired the elaborateness of Catholicism, which did not bode well with his people. He was different from James in the way he dealt with anyone who disagreed with his views, with malice and retaliation. He was not comfortable with compromise and was always set on getting his own way so it is inevitable that a character such as this would cause much conflict. Unlike James, Charles lacked diplomacy and confidence, so relied to heavily on Buckingham, he didn’t plan thoroughly enough before doing something and didn’t pay much attention to detail, instead rushing in.Also Charles was not in favour with his people because of the visit he and his father’s advisor Buckingham had taken to Spain to seek a wife and an ally with the Spanish people. They had been humiliated, ruined James’ plans and returned to England wanting revenge, pressuring James to fund an army to attack Spain that inevitably failed and Parliament were furious, the trust of the people had been lost. But Charles kept Buckingham as his advisor and, despite endless complaints about him, refused to get rid of his closest friend, even though they tried again to negotiate with Spain in 1625 and again failed, all on Buckingham’s advice.Buckingham himself can take some responsibility for the crisis of 1640 because it was due to him that many decisions were made by Charles, specifically-and perhaps the worst of these decisions-was the marriage he arranged between Charles and French princess Henrietta Maria. This was an unpopular move due to her being a staunch Catholic in a dominantly-Catholic France, and Buckingham further worsened the situation by sending ships to stop the French Protestant rebellion, perceived by the people of England as a support for Catholicism. Buckingham was a walking disaster, everything he attempted went wrong, and Parliament wanted him impeached but to save his friend on the belief that he could not rule without his trusty advisor, Charles chooses to take action and dissolves Parliament, causing major financial difficulty, which is the next issue in the build up to the crisis.Financially, Charles’ reign did not get off to the best start, with Parliament, angry and upset from their treatment by James, only vote Tunnage and Poundage for Charles for one year instead of life, meaning he is forced to call Parliament every year to keep getting it granted again so they were in control. But once Parliament are dissolved, Charles was left with the problem of how to gain money by himself. So he begins to collect Tunnage and Poundage illegally, he introduces a ‘forced loan’ that demanded people give him money that was not compulsory because it was not a law passed by Parliament but Charles went on to imprison anyone who refused. When taken to court over his ability to do so, he pressured judges to find in his favour and they did, making Parliament increasingly furious.In 1628, with wars with France and Spain still in process, he was forced to call Parliament, but in true Charles style, he produced a ‘Petition of Rights’ to plead for money, yet set out his rights at the same time, which angered Parliament, who agreed to give him money if he reversed the judges decision and he reluctantly agreed. The balance of power continues to shift from king to parliament and back again, when in 1628 Buckingham is assassinated, Parliament celebrate and offer him life Tunnage and Poundage but Charles is so incensed by their celebrations that he dissolves Parliament and regains the power. His financial actions had also made him unpopular with his people. The relationship between king and Parliament is awful and Charles choice to rule alone for eleven years did nothing to help matters.Charles eleven year ‘Personal Rule’ began in 1629 when he declared he was going to rule without Parliament and dissolved them for the foreseeable future. To rule without them for long periods of time was not unusual because if a king could finance himself then there was little need for Parliament as they were not an essential part of everyday government. However at this time, Charles is not highly popular or greatly trusted and his people are worried about his ideas for reform because if he could rule without Parliament, he could make whatever changes he desired and there would be nothing anyone could do about it. Instead of being cautious and careful, Charles, who unlike James was keenly involved in administration and attended meetings, first move was to introduce the Book Of Orders, consisting of 314 books of instructions to Justices of the Peace on how to run the country, from beggars laws to trade and goods control. Surprisingly administration seemed to be the area Charles succeeded in as the Book Of Orders was well received and improved English life.But even in this area, Charles could not settle for a tactful and calm situation, appointing William Laud as his advisor, who was instrumental in the religious conflicts that contributed to the crisis of 1640. Charles came to the throne with firm religious beliefs and, unlike James, he was not willing to compromise. Laud became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1633 and straight away began to make changes to the services, preaching and the teachings, emphasising Charles’ love for ritual and communal worship in replacement for the personal Bible faith. Churches were adorned with lavish decoration, the altar was moved to a position out of reach of the public and echoing Catholic style, and for Charles and Laud it was establishing a better church.But, understandably, these changes were taken in a very different way by the people of England who were looking for every sign of the feared return of Catholicism and the changes were a few prime examples. It appeared that Charles was encouraging idol worship and rituals made worship mechanical and removed the feeling and belief. In many peoples eyes Charles was attacking the heart of the Protestant faith with the changes, the continual toleration of Catholic influences such as his wife, numerous bishops and even privy Councillors that were appointed to help him run the country. Charles made a big error when he welcomed an ambassador from the Pope into England and a friendship blossomed, sparking yet more fears. And Charles did himself no favours by doing nothing to calm these fears, instead continuing to undermine the Arminian faith that he claimed to belief in. Catholicism appeared to be becoming fashionable in court circles and Henrietta Maria was allowed to worship as a Catholic with her priests around her. It didn’t look good for the Protestant nation. But as with other areas of unease, nothing could be done to prevent these changes.All this amounted to the fear that Charles was trying to make himself an Absolute Monarch, ruling alone with his decisions being final, and this was particularly frightening for the people due to the fact that Absolutism was associated with Catholic countries. Charles made further mistakes by introducing and establishing a new tax called ‘Ship Money’ that at first was not compulsory but was made so by the court and was widely disliked as it was another sign of Absolutism that Charles could rule without Parliament while he had very profitable means of financing himself. The people of England were upset, helpless and terrified. Parliament were furious, powerless and amazed by the way Charles was determinedly but naively carrying on with the changes to make sure the country was run by nobody’s beliefs but his own despite the damage it was doing. So it is quite clear now that conflict was brewing. A mixture of political and religious grievances had created bitter opposition among the public but without Parliament there was little way to express these oppositions.Another important factor was the three kingdoms as Charles was also king of Ireland and Scotland. He had already withdrawn the royal proclamation, the Graces, that removed any freedom the Irish had but Scotland was to prove more difficult and little did Charles know that his stubbornness and refusal to back down would result in terrible consequences. Scotland had independence from the English monarchy in the form of the Presbyterian Kirk that was a Protestant Reformation that was run by a committee of ministers, and was for the Scottish a symbol of their religious and cultural identity. Charles lacked James understanding of Scottish affairs and while James had attempted to form stronger links between England and Scotland, tactfully removing the Prayer Book he had imposed after opposition became too fierce, Charles reinforced a new prayer book and the combination of his changes and the way he did not care how they felt at all, made the furious Scottish clergy and nobility sign the Covenant to vow to defend the Kirk.In his usual manner of taking opposition as malicious, he raised an army but his poor funds and even poorer enthusiastic support meant the determined and passionate Scottish army won easily and he was forced to sign the Treaty of Berwick so the Scots could have religious freedom. Now the culmination of all his actions and his relationship with Parliament resulted in his political isolation with no on willing to lend him money, and many English people in support of the Scots, as they too wanted Charles stopped. Charles was forced to call Parliament and here was his chance to apologise and win back his people’s faith. But instead of being tactful and willing to compromise, he made stubborn demands of more money and this resulted in his own people forming an opposition against him.The Scots had by now entered England and taken over Newcastle, and with an unenthusiastic weak army Charles was easily defeated again and forced to sign the Treaty of Ripon with conditions of the king paying the Scottish army �850 a day, a truce forming, and no further negotiations would be made until Parliament was called. Parliament now had the control but by now even Charles had admitted that concessions had to be made to return the country to normal. But his realisation just came too late, and the crisis of 1640 could have been prevented if he had admitted his mistakes earlier.Having said all this, Charles was not the only one to blame for the crisis. The behaviour of Parliament must surely hold them partly responsible too. Parliament were wary of Charles from the beginning of his rein, because of their problems with Charles, so they were already off to a bad start with the new king. They should have given him the benefit of the doubt, instead of immediately taking sides against him. They also made a few wrong choices, such as limiting his money which forced him to illegally collect it by himself which in turn lead to the financial difficulties in his reign. They behaved badly at times, such as their plots to impeach and assassinate the kings advisor Buckingham, knowing exactly how it would effect him but showing no attempt at remorse.In conclusion, I think that the actions and beliefs of Charles were responsible for the crisis of 1640 to a great extent. Obviously previous events and experiences were the foundation of his problem with Parliament, his relationship with the people of England, and the disputes over religion and money, but it was through his choices, actions and his inability to compromise over his beliefs, that the foundations were built upon, leading to the problems worsening to such a degree that a crisis was inevitable. Many problems he inherited could have been solved or at least eased by tact and wise ruling but he was not a tactful or wise king and he wanted everything his own way.His choice to go through with changes to religion was an error due to the opposition felt by so many of his people but he didn’t not listen to the people so he became out of touch and determined to make his mark on the country. In this way he underestimated the power of the people, who in the end turned their back on him because of the way they were treated, and became such an opposing force that Charles eventually was made to back down. Charles’ personality was a contributor because he was opinionated and didn’t allow for debate on his choices, so he alienated his people and because he was weak, he allowed himself to be lead by advisors who also contributed to the crisis due to their advising wrong actions. His lack of political knowledge showed at times and this made him an easy target for rebellion.But although he was responsible to a great extent, Charles was not solely responsible as some blame must be put on Parliament for also making bad decisions and taking opposition to their own king instead of trying harder to help him in his time of crisis. Several individuals such as Laud who made the religious enforcements, his advisors Buckingham and Thomas Wentworth and even his own father James were contributors as Charles inherited the country in a certain state from James’ rule, his advisors manipulated the easily-influenced king into making bad moves, and Laud was the one responsible for angering the people with his Catholic changes. The Scottish people must be acknowledged as an influential trigger as they brought the country’s problems to the point of crisis. However these individuals were all only minor figures compared to Charles, whose continual stubbornness created a state of crisis in his country which, with careful and tactful ruling, could easily have been avoided.

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