Causes of the English Civil War

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What caused the English Civil War?

The English Civil War took place from 1641 to 1651, and involved a series of conflicts between the parliamentarians lead by Oliver Cromwell, and the royalists. The causes of the English Civil War covered a number of years. The reign of Charles I had seen a marked deterioration in the relationship between Crown and Parliament. This breakdown may well have occurred as early as 1625. There were both short term and long term causes for the civil war, which included; the kings negative attitude towards parliament and parliamentarians, the fact that the royals had less money available then their rivals, and finally, the King’s marriage to a French catholic princess, which caused a threat to the Church of England and Scottish churches.

One major factor of why the civil war broke out was religion. Charles upset many people over the decisions and propositions he made. For example he had a clash with parliament over whether the Church of England should be reformed into the model that he wanted or whether, as Parliament wished, that it should move to a Puritan model with the abolition of the Bishops. Religion had divided the country since Henry VIII, and it was not easy to please everyone. Charles had a really bad relationship with parliament which proved to be a vital point in the outbreak of civil war.

Charles clashed with the Scots over religion on several occasions. The end of Charles’s independent rule came when he attempted to apply the same religious policies in Scotland as he had in England. The Scottish Church had independent traditions; however, Charles wanted to impose a uniform church throughout Britain, by introducing a new, High Anglican, version of the English Book of Common Prayer. This did not go well with the Scottish people it eventually led to a riot in Edinburgh. In February 1638 the Scots formulated their objections to the royal policy and put in a document called the “Loyal Protest”, which rejected all his proposals.

In spring of 1639, King Charles I accompanied his forces to the Scottish border, to end the rebellion known as the Bishops War, but, after an inconclusive military campaign, he accepted the offered Scottish truce .The truce proved temporary; and a second war followed in summer of 1640. This time, a Scots army defeated Charles' forces in the north, and then captured Newcastle. Charles eventually agreed not to interfere with Scotland's religion, and paid the Scots war-expenses. This had an impact on the financial resources available to the monarchy, thus resulting in a further long term cause of the civil war.

A further major cause of the civil war was Money. In 1635 Charles ordered that everyone in the country should pay Ship Money. This was historically a tax paid by coastal towns and villages to pay for the upkeep of the navy. The logic was that coastal areas most benefited from the navy's protection. Charles decided that everyone in the kingdom benefited from the navy's protection and that everyone should pay.  Ship Money was very unfair as Londoners could claim exemption, while other towns weren’t allowed to challenge the amount of their assessment. On August 4, 1635, a second order of ship money was issued targeting the sheriffs and justices of inland as well as of maritime counties and towns, demanding the sum of £208,000. This was judged on personal as well as real property. Payment was, however, refused by John Hampden, a wealthy Buckinghamshire gentleman (landowner). The case was heard before all the judges in the Exchequer Chamber. Hampden lost the case, 7 judges to 5, and ship money continued to be applied, provoking yet more opposition, until, overtaken by events, it was made illegal by the Long Parliament in 1641. The case also encouraged others to refuse the tax, and by 1639, less than 20% of the money demanded was raised. The court case may have found for Charles by a very small margin, which in effect gave Charles the power to do...
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