James I Was Described as "The Wisest Fool in Christendom" and His Son Charles as "An Inept King". to What Extent Can the Early Stuarts 1603 to 1629 Be Held Responsible for the Breakdown in Relations Between Crown and Parliament?

Topics: Charles I of England, James I of England, England Pages: 7 (2553 words) Published: March 12, 2006
This question is looking at trying to understand who and what factors led to the 11 years personal rule by Charles I. The relationship breakdown between Crown and Parliament began in 1603 with James I and ended in 1629 when Parliament was dissolved.

To fully understand the causes of the breakdown we need to look what inherited problems James had to face. Elizabeth had created a debt of £400,000 which was passed onto James, so already he faced severe financial problems. On top of this was the 16th century price rise, which had created an inflation of 400%. This created the ‘Canker of want' (James) where income was less than expenditure. Inflation had seriously decreased the value of subsidies granted by parliament from £140,000 in 1500 to £72,500 in 1600. James was not happy with ‘the greatness of my debt and the smallest of my means'. Fixed rents and poor management of his feudal dues created even more problems for James; he could no longer ‘Live of his own' and had to rely on money from parliament. As Russell said ‘ The Stuarts inherited a financial system that was already at the point of breakdown'.

The character and qualities of James did not help the relationship. James was not kingly in appearance. His oversized tongue made speaking difficult and his small size and rapier proof double he wore gave him a cowardly look about him. But worse of all was his Scottish heritage. He was seen as a foreigner from a land despised by Englishmen as England was still technically at war with Spain. James wanted to unify England and Scotland and saw himself as a peacemaker, which was not very well recognised after the reign of the ruthless Queen Elizabeth. James did not take very naturally to the new ways of English parliament, as in Scotland he was used to sitting in on parliamentary debates and having control parliament. James also placed himself in a bad position for having Scottish favourites such as Lord Hay, and unwisely excluded his English advisors making him very unpopular. He was not a traveller like his predecessor Elizabeth who spent time progressing around the country, which resulted in him not being liked as much as ‘Good Queen Bess'. In 1605 the gunpowder plot panicked him into fear of being assassinated and rapier proof doublet to bed which did not give him a good name. We can not really blame James for his character but we can see already the relationship between James and Parliament was unstable; they did not trust him and believed he was bringing Scotsmen ‘on the make'; it was a foolish failure of patronage

Charles, like his father, had a stubborn belief in divine right, but unlike his father he tried to put it into practice. He saw Parliaments ‘privileges' as granted by the crown, but Parliament believed they were granted by tradition and Magna Carta. This was inevitably going to cause friction between crown and parliament as they faced the challenge of a new century. ‘The times were changing' (Reece) and Charles had to ‘manage the balance of the constitution'. Charles also took criticism badly and saw it as treachery, he couldn't even cope with constructive criticism. Also he was a poor communicator, yet another part of his character like his father. He found it very had to speak in Parliament and his speeches were often short and critical ‘They are to be or not to be as I see fit'. This added to the lack of communication between crown and Parliament. Charles only had a small circle of favourites such as Buckingham, and Buckingham's failures, such as the Spanish Match, reflected badly on the King. Already the characters of both kings were going to cause some friction and inept leadership, and was therefore the fault of the kings.

James extravagance was to cause anger in parliament and financial problems. His spending on clothes grew from £8,000 to £37,000 a year. Through his reckless spending James doubled his debts in three years from the £400,000 he had inherited from Elizabeth to £816,000. James...
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