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How far was Parliament more responsible than Charles for the breakdown of their relationship in the period 1640-1642?

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Introduction

How far was Parliament more responsible than Charles for the breakdown of their relationship in the period 1640-1642? After ruling without Parliament since 1629, Charles was finally forced to call Parliament in April 1640 when his conflict with Scotland culminating in the Bishop's Wars left him in severe financial difficulty. However, this 'Short Parliament' lasted less than a month as Charles refused to listen to the grievances of MPs angered by Personal Rule. This meant that the Parliament was dissolved without any subsidies being voted for war with Scotland and after the Second Bishop's War in August 1640, Charles called another parliament in November 1640, with no option but to listen to their grievances in return for war subsidies. The MPs of the 'Long Parliament' opening at Westminster on November 3rd 1640 were united in their determination to change recent governing policies of Charles I's Personal Rule. Their stance became known as the 'anti-court consensus', and they had every hope of achieving their aims - the preservation of the old constitution from the King and his advisors, who had temporarily suspended it - through discussion and persuasion. At first the parliament was productive, their ambitious programme of legislative reform co-ordinated by John Pym, a member of the House of Commons, who avoided potentially divisive issues to unite Parliament against the King and his advisors. ...read more.

Middle

The English Parliament was left thinking that it would be possible to control Charles in a similar way, whereas before they had only suggested choosing the King's ministers. By the time Parliament began its Second Session in October 1641, the splits between MPs were far more obvious. Now the constitutional abuses of Personal Rule had been addressed, some MPs wanted to introduce further revolutionary reforms - with Pym's 'Grand Remonstrance' - while others - 'Constitutional Royalists' - believed that the King had to be trusted again for the constitution to succeed. With his support growing, Charles was placed in a stronger position, and had he consistently followed the advice of the 'Constitutional Royalists', he could have presented himself as a symbol of order and stability and a trustworthy monarch, which would undoubtedly have undermined Pym and his followers. However, Charles did not follow this path and it has been suggested that this is one factor which contributed to the further breakdown of his relationship with Parliament. "Charles I was ill suited to cope with his plight...while it would be foolish to conclude that the Civil War occurred simply because Charles was King, it would be equally foolish to underestimate the part played by his personality."1 His position was further damaged towards the end ...read more.

Conclusion

He responded with the Commissions of Array in June, his own call to arms which was based on a very ancient legal device and was not widely accepted, most of the gentry supporting the Militia Ordinance 'for the defence of King and Parliament' Pym felt himself to be in a strong permission and effectively started the civil war with an uncompromising list of demands to Charles, the 'Nineteen Propositions', which would have served to make the king a constitutional monarch. They were a list of demands which Charles found unacceptable and the king declared war on Parliament on 22nd August 1642. Within two years the relationship between Parliament and Charles had deteriorated to such an extent that England was at war. Parliament can be seen as wholly responsible for the deterioration because of its insistence in pushing controversial, revolutionary reforms through Parliament. However, I do not believe it can be held entirely responsible as several of Charles' actions worsened his relations with Parliament, for example his indecisive behaviour. Therefore I would say that responsibility for the breakdown of Crown-Parliament relations between 1640-2 must be apportioned more or less equally between the two factions. 1 Derek Hirst, 'Authority and Conflict: England 1603-58.' 2 Lawrence Stone, 'The Causes of the English Revolution.' 3 Sir Harbottle Grimston, during the period. Sarah Ritchie ...read more.

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