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The Causes of the English Civil War

If you were to analyse the events directly preceding The English Civil War, it would have been difficult to predict it happening. Occurring less than forty years after the death of Queen Elizabeth, the war took place during the reign of Charles I, which was a generally peaceful time and had been for many years.

To better understand the circumstances that led to the outbreak of The English Civil War it is important to have an insight into the character of Charles I and his father before him, James VI of Scotland.

James VI had a somewhat lofty view of their role as monarchs of England, referring to the "the Divine Right of Kings" and to themselves as "little Gods on Earth". Charles I shared his father's view on the "divine" power of their rule as well as James VI's hopes of uniting the whole of the British Isles under a single entity, the United Kingdom. Charles I also demanded utmost loyalty from his subjects in exchange for what he deemed was a "just rule", although he was personally a religious king with little desire for personal gain. Any questioning of this authority was considered an insult to the divine power of the crown at best and outright treason at worst. It was this inflexible trait of Charles I along with the many seemingly insignificant events that subsequently challenged this expectation, which led to a severe breakdown in the political relationship between Charles I and the parliament. This breakdown between both parties set the stage for the eventual outbreak of war.

The relationship between the monarchy and the parliament was further strained by a series of actions undertaken by Charles I. The first of these was his marriage to a French Roman Catholic princess named Henrietta Maria, shortly after being crowned king in 1625. Although such royal marriages were quite common at the time, his decision to take a Catholic bride hinted at his eventual Papist leanings, which put him in a bad light with the Parliament. The Parliament at this time was composed of a small but influential faction of Puritans who made up one third of the governing body.

Charles' marriage to Henrietta was enough reason for consternation for many members of Parliament but his insistence on being involved in the wars brewing in Europe gave Parliament even more cause for concern. Charles saw these wars as a sort of holy crusade, which in itself wouldn't have posed much of a problem except for his instatement of George Villiers (the first Duke of Buckingham) as head of command. George Villiers was a personal favourite of Charles and Parliament often had to contend with the Duke under Charles' orders.

The Parliament was already suspicious of George Villiers to begin with and mandated that he be recalled from active service if he failed to perform his duties adequately. This led to George Villiers eventual dismissal in 1626 and Charles in turn dissolved Parliament after this act of "insolence".

After this event, a series of political conflicts between Charles and the Parliament followed which eventually led to the outbreak of hostilities.

Original Authors:Doods Pangburn
Edit Update Authors: RPN
Updated On: 26/02/2007



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