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King Charles I (1625-1649)
Charles I and his Parliament (1) : Charles took his rights and duties as a King with religious seriousness, but Parliament’s sense of both right and duty was just as strong.
Charles I and his Parliament
Part one

King Charles I of England and Scotland (1600-1649) was charming, clever and convinced that he had inherited a divine right and duty to govern the country his own way. Parliament disagreed, demanding a constitutional role in law-making and criticising his policies. It did not seem likely to end well.

IN 1625, Charles I inherited a kingdom torn apart by competing religious convictions and hatreds. A century before, Henry VIII, chafing at political interference from Rome, had taken control of the English Church and blended its traditions with fashionable Protestant ideas from Switzerland. It was done harshly, by law, and each successive government arbitrarily changed the blend.

Charles was no different, moving the state Church back towards more traditional beliefs, and ordering fines, imprisonment and even physical mutilation for dissent. His revised service book for a very Swiss-Protestant Scotland provoked the Bishops’ Wars of 1639-1640, and ended in humiliating defeat.

The King suddenly looked weak, and could ill afford it. Back in 1628, Parliament had unexpectedly supported Sir Edward Coke’s ‘Petition of Right’, a litany of Charles’s abuses of power including arbitrary taxes, towns under martial law, forced loans to the Crown, and opponents jailed without charge or trial. Since then, the King had not consulted Parliament once, and anger was rising.

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Picture: National Portrait Gallery, via Wikimedia Commons. View original
King Charles I in 1628, painted by Gerard van Honthorst (1590-1656), full of the legendary charm and intelligence which for so long made up for his arbitrary government, and ingenious ways of raising revenue from his subjects. The artist was introduced to the King by Charles’s sister, Queen Elizabeth of Bohemia.

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