England Under The Early Stuarts 1603-1640
James I.—When James Stuart came to the throne, he had an exalted idea of the kingship, believing that he ruled by divine right. The Tudors had wielded almost absolute power, the privy council overshadowing parliament. James naturally intended to rule in a similar manner, and resented any legislative action which tended to decrease his prerogative. He also stood as a staunch supporter of the English church. His foreign policy was based upon a sincere desire for peace. With this in view he ended the war with Spain and projected a marriage between his son and a Spanish princess. In the latter part of James' reign, when the Thirty Years' War broke out, the king hoped to become the arbiter of Europe. Though he failed in this, he at least had the satisfaction of keeping his country out of war.
Charles I.—The Parliamentarians who had nursed their wrath during the reign of James, soon clashed with his successor. Charles I was a man of staunch self-righteousness, who had little of pliability and much of stubbornness in his nature. His idea of the royal prerogative was fully as exalted as that of his father. From the beginning of the reign, king and parliament clashed. When a war, which broke out with France and Spain, went badly, the unpopularity of the king increased. When he summoned parliament in 1628 to ask for supplies, he found that body unwilling to comply with his demands until he had signed the Petition of Right.
The experience which the king had with parliament determined him to rule without it, and from 1629 to 1640 he carried on a personal government. Acting through his privy council, the king ruled England. His chief difficulty was to secure sufficient revenue to carry on the government. Ancient feudal laws were resurrected and put into force. So long as no extraordinary emergency arose the king was able to carry on the government. During this period the religious controversy was also becoming acute, the tyranny of Laud, the Archbishop of Canterbury, constantly adding fuel to the fire. Puritans and Parliamentarians found a common ground of opposition. When the king attempted to force the English prayer book and church organization on the Scotch Prebysterians, war broke out. Charles found it necessary to summon parliament, whereupon he found religious and political opponents united against him.
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