How far was the English civil war a result of rule over multiple kingdoms?

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Elliot GreenAmanda FlatherHR 111

How far was the English Civil War a consequence of rule over multiple kingdoms?

        “If the Remonstrance had been rejected I would have sold all I had the next morning and never have seen England more, and I know there are many other modest men of the same resolution”. England, 1641, and the Grand Remonstrance has just been passed. The long list of grievances towards the present monarch, King Charles I included such issues like the ‘catholic conspiracy’, local land distributions, right for parliament to bypass the Crowns decisions if necessary and other general foreign, legal and financial policies. The quote from Oliver Cromwell, a puritan member of parliament during the run up to the Civil war, effectively spelt out the mass sentiment towards the monarchy at the time, that being the large dissatisfaction with Charles I’s tyrannical rule over England. Although Cromwell does indeed speak for the majority when he expresses relief over the ratification of the remonstrance, the causes of the English Civil war do undeniably stem from issues outside of the English domain. It must be stressed that rule over multiple kingdoms was indeed an element that was encompassed into the general causes of the Civil War and it can be argued that the Crowns rule in Scotland and Ireland did indeed make conflict inevitable but varying other factors do also need to be considered. Charles I installation of ‘High Anglicanism’ and his decision to marry a Catholic fed into the grievances that protestant England had towards the Crown. In addition to this the fear of popery, economic stagnation, the personal rule of Charles I and debts incurred from the Elizabethan era were amongst a whole array of other factors that formed the origins of the Civil war.

        In order to form an analysis on the causes of the English Civil War, one must consider the claim that the question poses itself first, that being the rule over multiple kingdoms. Using this factor in addition to the existence of the huge economic problems present, I will be able to compare the relative significance of each factor in turn. The main problems that faced England through ruling multiple kingdoms were the existence of differing religions and governing political bodies in both Ireland and Scotland. Despite the fact the Civil War is often dubbed ‘the English revolution’ the real trigger factors that led to its existence do indeed originate from the risings in Scotland and Ireland. Conrad Russell has drawn specific attention onto this and claims that: “it was not the English who started the Civil war, but the Scots and the Irish who gave them their opportunity”. It is true that there were separate factors that led to the Civil War but the pressure that they potentially put onto the English parliament was less than that of the Scots and Irish risings, as will be discussed below.

 In the first instance, religion in Scotland and Ireland became a major concern for Charles I. As a result of Scotland and Ireland effectively being colonies of England during the 17th century, some sort of standardized religion was, in the eyes of Charles I necessary in order to gain greater unity in these areas to prevent instability. In Scotland’s case, the church structure was mostly Presbyterian and although it was protestant, Charles still advocated a church structure similar to that of England’s. Charles I’s installation of the 1636 Book of Canons, with its anti - Presbyterian stance resulted in widespread demonstrations, chief among which were the highly organized riots in the principal church of St Giles. The difficulty of ruling over multiple kingdoms did pose a problem in so far as the population of Scotland were clearly not as subservient as Charles had first hoped. The fact that the tyrannical Charles was so out of touch with the interests of the Scots meant that further problems, some of which being financial, were inevitably going to be posed to the King. June 1639 saw Charles make a pact with the Scots that stated; all matters concerning Scotland should be left to the governance of the Scots themselves. Further still the Crown, under the terms of the subsequent 1640 treaty of Ripon forced Charles to pay compensation to the Scots as long as they remained in northern England, further showing a strong Scottish defiance against English rule. Furthermore, after a failed English military effort to confront the Scots in the Tees, parliament was required to raise money to pay for the indemnity imposed by the Scots in 1640. This proposition was not received well in England as previous taxation was already burdening enough, as seen through the Ship money tax of 1634 that taxed seaside towns in order to bolster defences there. It must also be duly noted that: “until the burdens of the Scottish war were added, most people paid ship money with little open dismay”. The situation in Scotland can therefore firmly be seen as a key factor that prompted the Civil war as previous payment of supposedly controversial taxation was paid before. It became increasingly apparent to parliament that the king was less than able in governing England owing to the huge debts incurred from waging conflicts in Scotland and Ireland. Charles use of tyranny and sheer lack of educated consultation in parliament indeed prompted a rising sentiment amongst parliamentary members that Charles was not capable of governing England.

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        Secondly there is Ireland’s case to consider. Ever since its settlement, the English Crown has been attempting to, like in the case of Scotland, push for religious conformity in Ireland. Thomas Wentworth, under the consultation of Charles I had been instructed to undergo a large scale ‘Anglicisation’ of Ireland, attempting to convert all Catholics present to the predominantly English Protestant faith. It was only when Wentworth’s military force was withdrawn from Ireland to deal with the present risings in Scotland that Irish dissatisfaction with the forced practise of Protestantism began to surface. The position of Charles I was seriously weakened ...

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