Was the English Civil War a War of Religion?

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Was the English Civil War a war of Religion? The English Civil Wars of 1642 to 1651 had religious connections indefinitely, yet to say that they were wars of religion is slightly blindsided. Economics, national and foreign policy and the rule of King Charles I all played pivotal roles in the wars, in particular, the role of the King and his failings to rule. Such failings lost support for the King on a large scale and led to the argument that this was the beginnings of democracy where the people wanted to look elsewhere from the monarchy for a better governed country.

The wars were not fought intently for religion but instead against the monarchy and the dreadful rule of King Charles I for a better led democracy. Such democracy was largely connected and associated with the Parliamentarians who offered opposition to the failing Royalists and hope for change. With the Royalists and the Parliamentarians fighting for power and for leadership of their country, two parties with no major religious qualms were set to go to war.

For the Roundheads, the ultimate desire was not religious but was to “safeguard parliaments place in the constitution from the creeping threat of royal absolutism’ that had seemed to be prevalent since at the least 1626. ” The parliamentarians offering opposition to the Royalists were in a political sense, seen as the answer in the search of democracy through which they gained mass support. However in answering the question, religious connections must be analysed with a mind on the importance to the civil wars.

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Importantly, England was a strictly protestant nation after the Reformations of the 16th century and King Charles struggled with Parliament in connection to religion and caused much tension and ill feeling within England. In keeping with his high Anglican faith, the King appointed his main political advisor, William Laud as the new archbishop in 1633. The Protestant people of England accused Laud of Catholicising the Church of England and in turn Laud imposed fines for not attending Anglican Church services.

He aroused further public anger in 1637 by cutting off the ears of three gentlemen who had written pamphlets attacking Laud’s own views. Such strict and brutal behaviour caused fear in the people and alienate Laud’s church. Further still, the marriage of King Charles to the Roman Catholic French princess Henrietta Maria 1625 had previously caused a general fear of Catholicism to emerge in England but this was only built upon by the measures Laud had instigated. Clearly religion did have an impact yet it is the subsequent effects that matter.

These religious matters crucially caused a lack of support for the monarchy and the realisation that the monarchy needed Parliament to govern effectively. The King was blind to this and this forced the people to look elsewhere for democracy. This was the true nature of the war to fight for control and a new democracy. To continue, King Charles the First showed incompetence throughout his rule losing the support of his people gradually but surely. A series of failings displayed his inability to rule yet first and foremost was the manner of King Charles.

Michael Young describes Charles as ‘a stubborn, combative and high-handed king, who generated conflict” whilst Richard Cust continues that “he was not stupid, but he did suffer from what Russell calls ‘a tunnel vision’, which made it very difficult for him to understand anyone’s perspective other than his own. ” Shy and obnoxious, Charles was unwilling to conform to parliament insisting that he was chosen by God to rule in accordance with the doctrine of the “Divine Right of Kings”.

Many parliamentarians feared that setting up a new kingdom as Charles I intended might destroy the old English traditions that had been integral to the English monarchy and its country and this belief from King Charles I of the divine right of kings only exacerbated this. Importantly at this point, parliament was subject to dissolution by the monarchy at any time and they had to weary of this. In all, King Charles was unsuitable to rule England and his character flaws along with his beliefs and reluctance to compromise left him on a one way path to disaster and crucially, unpopularity.

He needed parliament yet he himself did not know it, instead his own policies and decisions would alienate him from the people and would be his very downfall. More so disastrous for his reign than his “indecisive, inadequate and ineffective” personality were the policies of King Charles I. The King wanted to take part in the Thirty Years’ War of Europe at huge costs and with heavy expenditure. Parliament foresaw these impossible costs of the war and refused to support King Charles yet this did not stop the King in pressing ahead with his European Wars.

His conquests continued past the dissolution of parliament into his ‘personal rule’ until he was forced to withdraw from the war making peace with Spain and France; the monarchy’s finances were shattered and the King had dissolved Parliament ending any hopes of financial support from taxes. Here the King demonstrates his naivety with the country sustaining incredible financial troubles with little reward to show for it but most importantly he lost further support of the people. People began to question his ability to rule and began to look elsewhere towards parliament.

Perhaps the clearest indication though that he was unable to rule without parliament came with his 11 year Personal Rule. For 11 years, King Charles avoided calling a parliament during which time he made several crucial mistakes. Most importantly, without Parliament, Charles was left with little revenue and so he looked to other means of income. Controversially, the King tried to implement Ship taxes, exploiting a naval war-scare and demanding tax from inland counties to pay for the Royal Navy.

The tax was questionable at best, supported by law but regarded as an illegal tax; men refused to pay the ship tax and argued that the tax was illegal in court, but most lost and were fined. Further resentment to the King was growing among the English people and again they blamed the Kings lack of parliament and his inability to rule without it. King Charles I foolishly looked to enforce policies in Scotland also. The King had hoped to unite England with Scotland and Ireland to create a single kingdom with a uniform High Anglican church.

This idea scared Parliament with fears of losing traditional English ways evident. Despite this, summer of 1637 saw Charles I interfere with Scottish religion introducing a new high Anglican English book of prayer to the Scottish despite the Church of Scotland having strict traditions. This was duly followed by resistance and riots in Edinburgh followed by a rebellion. Naturally the King responded by leading an army to the Scottish border and challenging the rebellion.

A second war followed in 1640 where embarrassingly King Charles’ forces were defeated by a Scottish army who continued to capture Newcastle; Charles now had a rebellion on his hand but with insufficient finances he could not defend anything of the like, he was forced to form a new parliament and seek the taxes that they brought. The Scottish were demanding ? 850 a day to keep them from advancing and this was all Charles’ own doing in trying to change religion in Scotland. It can be argued as indeed C. Russel does that, “Religion undoubtedly contributed heavily to the outbreak of the Bishops wars.

It contributed to the English defeat in the wars, by building up a party in England whose sympathies were on the Scottish side. ” However these religious disputes were not a direct cause of the civil war rather that once again King Charles had made a mistake and proven his inability to rule without the credible parliament. The people were becoming all too aware of these failings and his delusions. The dislike for King Charles I continued to climb with his ordered execution of Thomas Wentworth May 1641.

The King had sacrificed one of his chief advisors in the hope of preventing war yet it was all in vain. Here his incapability’s had resulted in an execution and the backlash in Ireland was total chaos with the faithful Catholics fearing a protestant resurgence. Further tension between the monarchy and parliament was seen and the King looked very weak at this point. Finally, the end of King Charles of England rule came in 1642, early in which he had attempted to capture five members of the House of Commons.

The King had gone accompanied by 400 soldiers to arrest the five members on charge of treason yet upon arrival at parliament the Speaker refused to reveal the whereabouts of the suspects. Crucially, Lenthall replied “May it please your majesty, I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as this house is pleased to direct me whose servant I am here; and humbly beg your majesty's pardon that I cannot give any other answer than this is to what your majesty is pleased to demand of me” voicing his determined allegiance not the King but to Parliament.

This portrayed the feeling between Parliament and the King and it was only then that the King saw that he had real opposition. Following his latest failing Charles had fled from London in fear of his own safety but continued to negotiate with Parliament through until the summer to no avail. With the summer passing towns and cities began to voice their allegiance for either the Royalists or the Parliamentarians and the war was beginning to emerge. Quite literally King Charles had got it all wrong and had even sparked off a civil war with his attempts to arrest parliament members.

Importantly it was the King’s attempts to arrest members of parliament that sparked the war as opposed to any religious factors or disputes and the Kings incompetent ruling of the country that continued to fuel the civil wars for years to come. In conclusion, the English civil wars on 1642 to 1651 were not wars of religion. Without doubt religion played a role in the distancing between the King to his people and Parliament and also with the Bishops wars, yet it was not integral to the emergence of the war or indeed throughout the war.

Rather the war was a war of power and control with Parliament attempting to provide democracy to the unsatisfied people in contrast to the diabolical failings with the rule of King Charles I. King Charles was incapable of ruling the country, demonstrating his incompetence with endless examples to make the people want for a new democracy and better leadership for their country; and that they did with support for Parliamentarians seen in huge numbers. The Kings failure to rule and govern the country had directly led to intervention from the Parliamentarians and the start of the English civil wars. Word Count – 1920

Bibliography 1. Coward, B. (1980) The Stuart Age; England 1603 – 1714. Pearson Education Limited 2. Cust, R. (2002) ‘Politics, Religion and Popularity’, Charles I and popularity. (ed. ,Cogswell, T. Cust, R. Lake, P. ) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 235 3. De Groot, J. (2004). Royalist identities. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. 4. Hill, C. (1958). Puritanism and revolution: Studies in interpretation of the English revolution of the 17th century. London: Secker ; Warburg. 5. Kishlansky, M. (1999) ‘Tyranny Denied: Charles I, Attorney General Heath, and the Five Knights’ Case. 42: 53 6. Morrill, J. S. (1993). The nature of the English Revolution: Essays. London: Longman. 7. Parliament. uk; Speaker Lenthall defends Parliament against the King. Accessed 27th March 2012. Available from http://www. parliament. uk/business/publications/parliamentary-archives/archives-highlights/archives-speakerlenthall/ 8. Russell, C. (1990) The Causes of the English civil War. Oxford: Clarendon Press 9. Sproxton, J. (1995). Violence and religion: Attitudes towards militancy in the French civil wars and the English Revolution. London ; New York: Routledge. ------------------------------------------- [ 1 ]. Coward, B. (1980) The Stuart Age; England 1603 – 1714. Pearson Education Limited [ 2 ]. Cust, R. (2002) ‘Politics, Religion and Popularity’, Charles I and popularity. (ed. ,Cogswell, T. Cust, R. Lake, P. ) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 235 [ 3 ]. Cust, R. (2002) ‘Politics, Religion and Popularity’, Charles I and popularity. (ed. ,Cogswell, T. Cust, R. Lake, P. ) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 235 [ 4 ]. Kishlansky, M. (1999) ‘Tyranny Denied: Charles I, Attorney General Heath, and the Five

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Was the English Civil War a War of Religion?. (2017, Feb 27). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/was-the-english-civil-war-a-war-of-religion/

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