Why personal rule

On March 2nd 1629, King Charles I dissolved Parliament and declared he intended to rule without them. Within the first few years of Charles’ reign, the relationship between parliament and himself deteriorated rapidly. This was caused by the personality of both Charles and Buckingham and their relationship. The relationship between Charles and parliament, and the rule of law. And finally, Charles’ opinions and beliefs on religion and the Church. The Duke of Buckingham is an important factor in explaining why the King resorted to personal rule in 1629.

The Duke of Buckingham was James I’s favourite from 1615 till his death in 1625. His rise to power was extraordinary, he was promoted by his friends at court and quickly achieved an unusual amount of both political and personal influence over the King. Charles was an insecure young man who was susceptible to Buckingham’s large personality and worldly confidence and with his knowledge of court life and government, Charles was flattered by the attention of his fathers favourite, who tool him into his confidence.

Therefore, Buckingham cultivated a close friendship with the then Prince Charles. When James I died, this then allowed Buckingham to have a seamless transition of power into Charles’ reign and this scared relations between the King and parliament. One of the main reasons why Buckingham is an important factor in explaining why Charles I resorted to personal rule in 1629, was his disastrous foreign policy. This began in James’ reign when Charles led by Buckingham decided to visit Spain, unannounced in an attempt to marry the Spanish Infanta.

However, as they had arrived unannounced they had wrecked James’ plans and Charles and Buckingham returned empty handed humiliated by the fact that the Spanish had rejected the match. Buckingham and Charles were then convinced on revenge against the Spanish and in 1624 encouraged James to declare war on Spain. A naval strategy had been agreed in order to maximise the chances of winning the war, remembering the successful defeat of the Spanish Armada. However, Buckingham then encouraged King James to send a hired army under the command of a German mercenary, Court Mansfeld, to serve in the Palatinate.

The expedition resulted in a disastrous failure and achieved nothing. This again happened in a naval expedition to Cadiz in 1626, due to poor organisation. Buckingham had proved time and time again that his adventurous foreign policy, due to his lack of planning, failure to pay attention to detail and unrealistic expectations led to these expeditions being disasters, even if his foreign policy was meant to glorify his King. Buckingham had also arranged the marriage between Charles and Henrietta Maria, who was a French Catholic.

The marriage would be excepted on the grounds that she would be allowed to practice her religion in an already established Protestant England and also that English ships would help surpress a Protestant rebellion in La Rochelle. This angered many MP’s and caused the relationship between Charles and Parliament to become much worse due to the fact that in 1626, Buckingham’s inept diplomacy did lead an expedition to La Rochelle in 1627 to help the Protestants. This expedition also failed miserably because of Buckingham’s incompetent planning.

These failed expeditions created many problems between Charles I and Parliament as they were expensive and led to Parliament wanting and needed to question the Kings expenditure. After the failed Cadiz expedition in 1629 there were numerous demands for Buckingham to be impeached. However, the King stopped the impeachment by dissolving Parliament. The dissolution prevented the King receiving money from Parliament in the form of subsidies, which he desperately needed to finance the war with Spain. Buckingham was disliked by Parliament for his monopolisation of patronage at court as well as his disastrous foreign policy.

Patronage was the only way to find promotion and so was very important. However, because Buckingham controlled access to the King, no one could gain office or advance in their career without Buckingham’s support as it was unlikely that the King would hear what you had to say or offer unless Buckingham approved of it. This created a lot of frustration from Parliament towards Buckingham, especially since he was able to manipulate royal patronage in the interests of himself. The second explanation regarding as to why Charles resorted to Personal Rule in 1629 is explained by the relationship between Charles and Parliament, and the rule of law.

The downfall of Charles I’s relationship with parliament began after the failure at Cadiz when Charles I first began his reign. Charles had expected Tonnage ad Poundage for life, like every other King had received since Henry VII. However, Parliament had only agreed to vote the King Tonnage and Poundage for one year and that was just to make the point that it was a gift from the people to the King but because Charles needed the money he went and collected it before parliament had approved it anyway and continued collecting it after the first year had ran out.

Not only did Charles continue to collect Tonnage and Poundage without Parliamentary approval, after he had dissolved parliament , he demanded a forced loan; this was where the King insisted that his subjects should make a gift of money to the crown, equivalent to the amount they would have paid if Parliament had voted the anticipated subsidies. This was not the first time a monarch had demanded such a loan but it was the first time the king had threatened someone who refused to pay up, for example by conscripting them in the army or imprisoning them.

This raised a new dilemma that had never been faced under Elizabeth or James’ reign to do with the Kings authority and what safe guards his subjects had against abuse of this authority. In 1627, Five gentlemen were imprisoned for not paying the loan and thy demanded to know why they had been imprisoned. The case ended in a victory for the King and confirm his beliefs on his rule by ‘divine right’. However, he was denying the rule of law, which was the idea that law made by the King in parliament is supreme and must be accepted by Kings as well as his subjects.

Therefore, it guaranteed subjects rights as well as regal authority and even though the King made the law and could change it, he could not simply ignore it whenever he felt like it as it was the rule of law. By Charles denying this rule of law he was effectively laying a foundation for terror. The King also forced other measures, which caused concern in parliament, these being the billeting of soldiers, marshal law and ship money. The King was threatening the ancient rights and liberties of the English people by forcing them to follow these measures.

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