Charles I dissolves Parliament to start his ‘Personal Rule’
- 10th March 1629 -
During the reign of James I Parliament had grown increasingly powerful and was using finance as a way of exerting more and more power over the monarch. However, Charles I was having none of this and, with his steadfast belief in the divine right of kings, that it was the king’s right to rule and the people’s to be ruled, this was never going to be an easy marriage.
In 1625 few would ever have predicted that the outcome of Charles’ personality, stubbornness and beliefs would have led not only to civil war but also the execution of the king leading to a period of republicanism. There was precedent for what was to follow when James I argued with Parliament over customs duties – a major source of income for the King. Parliament told the King that he could not collect it without their permission and the King therefore dismissed them in 1611 for 10 years using his advisors and friends to run the country, rewarding them with titles and land. A young Charles I held Parliament personally responsible for the disagreement and for such an affront to his father. A king could not be wrong.
In 1625 Charles I married a French catholic named Henrietta Maria. The presence of a Catholic wife worried puritan MPs as they felt she could directly interfere in the way that the religion of the country would go. Ever since the religious turmoil of the sixteenth century the direction of religion in the country was very much at the whim of the monarch. Children of the couple might be brought up as Catholics and she would advise her husband. Already churches were changing and becoming more and more elaborate much to the disgust of those who believed that they should be plain, simple affairs that represented the way for a protestant faith.
Due to an elaborate set of alliances and unsuccessful attempts to negotiate a marriage for the future Charles I, James I, with Parliament’s agreement, declared war on Spain in 1624. After his death a year later, and before he was crowned Charles continued the preparations. The war was to prove extremely expensive and Parliament started to curb the way the King financed this using customs dues. It also criticised some of Charles’ other measures – such as religion, favourites and style of leadership, especially Charles Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham, who was a pivotal figure in Charles’ court.
The Petition of Right, passed on June 7th 1628, seemed to have settled the constitutional problems as it set out the rights of the king in matters of non-parliamentary tax, use of soldiers, imprisonment without due reason and the housing of soldiers. Charles’ assent to this Bill must have given re-assurances to Parliament but the monarch was soon to renege over this piece of legislation. The assassination of Buckingham in August that year only increased the tensions between legislature and head of state.
In March 1629, short of money for his war, Charles recalled Parliament. However, when matters started to get out of the control of the King he ordered the Speaker of the House, Sir John Finch, to dissolve Parliament again. Three members forcibly held him down while they passed legislation to curb the powers of Charles to raise money and rule in ways contrary to what they felt was fair. Charles prorogued the session and then on 10th March dissolved Parliament, arresting nine MPs.
Although he re-instated certain feudal rights to raise money, without Parliament he could not raise the taxes he needed and was forced to make peace. However, using various means, he ruled without Parliament for eleven years, often called ‘His Personal Rule’. When Parliament returned in 1640 the frustrations of those 11 years became very apparent. Although this served him well at the time tis eleven years stored up a resentment that was to fester and erupt in a long, bloody civil war that resulted in not only his own execution but a country that, for generations, was fractured, disjointed and riven with doubt.