The English Civil War: Did Money Play a Role?
Money. Dosh. Dough. Cash. Breaks hearts. Splits families. Ruins countries. Puts people on streets. Makes wars, civil wars. Even back in 1642….. Or did it? That is exactly the question that, within the next pages, I aim to answer. So, let’s cast our minds to roughly 1500-1650. Parliament had been going on for the good part of 300 years but it definitely wasn’t the same powerful one we see today as back then, the monarch still controlled virtually all matters, including when the parliament and what they are aloud or not aloud to do. This didn’t make any friction between the monarch and the parliament, but now the monarch had people and places to go to in times of need. The only problem however, is that some monarchs, like Queen Elizabeth, have problems with Parliament, which causes arguments and turns people against each other, ending in catastrophic results. Of course, the monarch was still in the stronger position for obvious reasons but one thing that pegged the monarchs back, and it happens to be a big problem, is that when a monarch is in need of money, his or hers first port of call is to raise or make taxes, giving the monarch that much needed money. The parliament, however, were the voices of the people also, meaning that if the monarch willed to impose taxes, they’d have to get past them first. So, even though the monarch and parliament had their problems, they’d still get past things, we’d have no civil war, and this assessment would be all but over. Sadly, this isn’t the case because after Elizabeth had died, there was no real suitable heir to the throne in any way except her cousin James of Scotland, which meant the Tudor era was over and, ironically, the English had to turn to the King of the “pesky” Scots, whom they had been trying to take over for so long. Mainly, on his travels south, he brought with him 2 problems; money and pride. The first was quite a simple concept but on that nevertheless dealt a massive blow. Along with the English Crown and a nice palace, James inherited with him a huge debt from Queen Elizabeth, but unlike her, he had a family to care for, so the problems were even more severe. Conveniently, a nifty little thing called Parliament was there which he had to call and attend to in order to rake in that extra little bit of wealth he needed. Not so conveniently, James had problems with Parliament, saying that “they argued too much” and that “he would have preferred them to just do as they’re told to”. He even went as far as writing: “The House of Commons is like a body without a head. The members give their opinions noisily. At their meetings nothing is heard except cries and shouts. I’m surprised English kings ever allowed such a place to exist”. Adding to this was the second main problem, and also one of the main factors in the build up to the civil war. King James I believed in the “Divine Right of Kings”. He believed that kings were appointed by God to defend the Church and the people, and that anyone who disobeyed him was disobeying God. In his own words: “Monarchy is the greatest thing on earth. Kings are rightly called gods since just like God they have the power of life and death over all their subjects in all things. They’re accountable to God only so it is a crime for anyone to argue about what a king can do”. Of course, parliament would have been against him because this made their opinions useless, which in turn made their job useless, and belittled their authority and real meaning. In 1625, when King James’ reign was finally over, the problems with Parliament lived on as the new king, Charles the 1st became king. He carried on the money problems and the idea of the “Divine Right of Kings” and brought with him a new problem, a catholic wife who was the sister of the French king name Henrietta Maria, which naturally caused unrest among Puritans. Arguments with the parliament carried on, if not, worsened, and...
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