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. 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...
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