1. There was as yet no Great Britain. There were the separate kingdoms of England (and Wales) and Scotland. (There was also the Kingdom of Ireland, but as that is on a different island and as in this phase of the development is not germane to our story, let’s just put it aside for the moment.) England and Scotland were separate kingdoms with separate parliaments and separate Churches, but James VI (of Scotland) & I (of England) was king of both Kingdoms. He was succeeded upon his death by his son Charles who also ruled each kingdom.
2. The Scots did not have as strong a parliamentary tradition as did the English and the English grew fearful that under these Scots Kings, the monarchy would grow stronger at Parliament’s expense.
3. James and his son Charles were highly influenced by the theory of the “Divine Right of Kings” that they held their thrones from God and ruled by his authority regardless of the consent of the people or the parliaments of their kingdoms.
4. In England the king could not levy taxes without the consent of Parliament.
5. The Church of England had always been an Episcopal Church (governed by bishops) and had since the reign of Elizabeth been strongly Calvinist in its theology. However there was a strong faction in the Church of England that wanted Presbyterian government (Boards of Clergy replacing bishops in setting policy) which was more typical of the Calvinist tradition. The Church of Scotland, on the other hand, had been Presbyterian but James had gradually re-introduced bishops to it, over and against the preferences of most of its staunchly Presbyterian members. By and large, Scotland was not happy with bishops.
6. During the reign of King James and especially after the accession of Charles, there developed a faction in the Church of England that theologically and liturgically began to move away from the Calvinism that characterized Anglicanism since Cranmer and particularly since the reign of Elizabeth.
7. James reputed homosexuality and his attachment to a number of “favorites,” especially George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, caused significant scandal to the Puritan (Calvinist) faction of the Church of England. Given James’ piety and general good nature, it pretty much only remained as grumbling during his reign, but when Charles ascended the throne and kept Buckingham as a chief advisor, the Puritan faction began to openly challenge royal policy.
8. Charles’ marriage to the openly Catholic Henrietta Marie, a French princess, angered the Puritan faction, not only because she was a Catholic but because of the persecution of French Calvinists by the Crown in France.
The pot came quickly to a boil in the reign of Charles. He became king in 1625 and by 1628 the English Parliament was determined to limit his power with the “petition of right.” Charles needed Parliament to grant him new taxes to support English participation in the Thirty-Years War. This was an essentially Catholic-Protestant War and England was to come in on the Protestant side, but Parliament used the King’s need to wring from him agreement that
1. the King would not levy taxes without parliamentary consent
2. soldiers would not be billeted in private homes without the owners’ consent
3. martial law would not be imposed to quell political unrest
4. Englishmen would not be arbitrarily imprisoned for dissent from royal policy
Charles had no choice but to agree to the petition, but he determined not to call Parliament again and for eleven years ruled without it. Tensions mounted. We mentioned Archbishop Laud and his revival of a certain amount of ceremonial in the Church of England and this did not sit well with the Puritan faction. Laud and other High Churchmen also renounced the Calvinist doctrine of double predestination in favor of Free Will. Laud also enforced the laws on Church attendance, fining or imprisoning those Puritans who refused to attend the Prayer Book liturgy. Those who criticized the Archbishop and his leadership of the Church, were dragged before Church courts which had the right to various punishments such as lashings or cutting off of an ear. Laud’s unpopularity with the Puritan faction—which was also the Parliamentary faction—only increased the unpopularity with King Charles.
When Charles and Laud tried to force a new Prayer Book on the Church of Scotland—a very “High Church” Book (for the day) rebellion broke out in Scotland with the so-called “Bishops’ Wars” (There were actually two, on in 1637 and the other in 1640.) Charles ended up being trounced by the Scots and he needed money to pay the war debts. This led to the calling of Parliament in April 1640. Parliament, once assembled, was not about to limit itself to voting the needed revenues for the King, but began to debate their grievances against the King. Charles dissolved Parliament after only three weeks. This was the “Short Parliament.”
Charles turned to Ireland for revenues where his viceroy, Lord Wentworth, was able to raise funds by persuading the Irish Catholic Lords to vote the King funds in return for greater religious liberty for Catholics. Trust me, this only enraged the Puritan faction all the more. Emboldened by the new monies, Charles could not stop himself from poking the hornet’s nest and once again invaded his Scots Kingdom to assert his authority. Once again he got trounced. To keep the Scots from invading England he had to pay the Scots army £ 850 a day. He also had to fund his English army to defend England against these Scots. In other words, he was paying to support both sides in a war. Desperately short of funds, he had no choice but to call Parliament again in November 1640. This Parliament had cojones. It arrested Laud in 1640. It would have him executed in 1645. It convicted Wentworth (the fellow who raised the money for Charles in Ireland) of treason and executed him in 1641. It passed a Law that the King could not dissolve Parliament without its consent. It passed another Law that Parliament had to meet at least every three years. It declared that the King’s advisors were subject to Parliamentary review. It abolished the Courts of High Commission and Star Chamber—two of the Courts subject directly to the King. In 1646 this parliament—known as the “Long Parliament”—abolished episcopacy making the Church of England Presbyterian in government. To be cont.