Why did the English Civil War begin?
An essay detailing King Charles' fallouts with Parliament, and the rivalries between various religious factions which lead to violence.
In 1642, war broke out in England; a battle was fought between King Charles I’s Cavaliers and Parliaments Roundheads. Each side was, in effect, fighting for the rights to the country. Why though, had the war begun? What had caused such an outbreak of violence? How had the kingdom come to war?
One of the main factors in the war was the fight for power between Charles and Parliament. The king did not want Parliament taking control of the country from him, and relations were turbulent. In 1625, Charles annoyed parliament by marrying Henrietta Maria, a French Catholic. They then annoyed him by only letting him raise customs duties for one year. He struck back by collecting the duties anyway, and dismissed Parliament for eleven years. Eventually, he was forced to recall them. Charles then tried to arrest five MPs, so Parliament seized his army. For seventeen years, there had been a constant tug of war between King Charles and his MPs. For nearly two decades they were at each other’s throats. It’s amazing that war didn't break out sooner.
Most of the struggles between Charles and Parliament were centred on money. When Charles first acquired the throne, he was faced with debt left to him by his predecessor, and when he got England involved in wars with Austria and France, the king nearly went bankrupt. With no money, Charles had no power. What most previous Kings did in situation like this was raise taxes for several years until their pots were full again (then keep them up just for the sake of it). But Charles had the problem of Parliament, whom wouldn't let him have any money. It was the pennilessness of Charles which forced him into the endless tug of war with Parliament. He would beg them for more and more money. Then, when his pockets were full again, he would send them away. But no matter what he tried, the king was being drained of his money.
As if his problems with parliament weren't bad enough, Charles also had to contend with long running religious disputes between the Catholics and Protestants. At the time, Charles ruled over England and Wales (both Protestant). But he was also trying to control Scotland (Presbyterian and Puritan) and Ireland (strong Catholic territory). In order to simultaneously rule over all four countries, Charles would have to sort out the religious system. He tried, in 1637, to introduce The New English Prayer Book to Scottish churches. The Scots saw this as the start of an attempt to turn them Catholic and rebelled against the King. Over the next three years, his majesty twice tried, and failed, to defeat the rebels with his own army. Also, the Irish, tired of being bullied, attacked, and robbed by foreign Protestants, staged their own rebellion. Charles I’s empire was starting to become unstable, and was tearing apart on all sides.
Overall, I think that the English Civil War started because Charles was trying to control several different countries which were – due to religious differences- largely incompatible. It was inevitable that the people of the different nationalities would reject each other. Also, with no money and his powers being strangled by Parliament, Charles was not able to move to prevent it. However, I think that the New English Prayer Book was probably the final catalyst.
Originally written September 2010 by Robin Taylor. No grade, but positive feedback.