2.5 The English Civil War (1642-1649)
The Civil War of England (1642-1649) is one of the most remarkable and important events in the history of England. The monarchy and the popular will were in open conflict for the first time. During this war the King was defeated and then executed. The parties that contended were the Royalists and the Puritans. The former was on the side of the King. They were also called the Cavaliers. They consisted of the nobility and the gentry. The Catholics also sided with the Royalists in large numbers.
2.5a Nature of Civil War
The nature of this war was dual. This was a religious and a political war. The Puritans and the Parliament united against the King and condemned his interference in the religious affairs. Both the Parliament and the Puritans were dissatisfied, as the King did not care for the existence of either. The Parliament along with the Puritans combined to dispute the King’s authority to lay down the law in Church and State. The main issue at stake was whether sovereignty resided in the King alone, or whether both the King and Parliament should share power. This discontentment broke out into an open struggle between the King, on the one hand, and the Parliament, on the other. This came to be known as the English Civil War or the Puritan Revolution.
The Main Reasons for this war were as stated under
i. Economic Problems
The King desired to extract money by unreasonable means and the Parliament wanted to have full control over the State Exchequer. The Parliament passed the Triennial Act, which made it obligatory for the King to call the Parliament for a session thrice a year. Another clause in the Act stated that the parliament could be dissolved only with its own consent, not as per the whims of the King.
The Tonnage and Poundage Act was passed in June 1614. Tonnage meant the tax levied upon each ton of wine coming in or going out of the Kingdom. Poundage was the tax levied upon every pound of dry goods. Although the tax was granted to the King (Charles I) for a year only, he continued to levy these custom duties well after the permitted duration.
ii. Religious Issues
The English King followed the Anglican Church.
Catholicism and Puritanism were the other faiths that existed in
England at that time. Charles desired to convert his subjects to
his own faith. At the same time the Puritans, who were in majority
in the Parliament, desired to convert the nation to their faith.
The King tried to give some concessions and amenities to the Catholics
by appointing them in high positions. He appointed William Laud
as the Archbishop of Canterbury and wanted the people to be guided
by him. Due to this there was war with the Parliament. The Puritans
were badly suppressed. This added to the growing unpopularity of
iii. Political Issues
When the King visited Scotland to settle the Scottish issue, he had to accept the full Restoration of the Presbyterian system. The King also met some Scottish nobles, who did not want the struggle to continue longer. A plot was also framed by some of the King’s friends to seize some of the Presbyterian leaders. These issues aroused anti-Regal feelings, and the confidence in the King was also lost.
An incident occurred in Ireland that once again created a rift between the King and the Parliament. A revolt broke out in which many Protestants were killed. The Irish rebels claimed that they were acting for the King. Crushing this rebellion became very difficult, The Parliament, meanwhile, debated the issue of no confidence in the King.
The impeachment and execution of Strafford and the impeachment of Archbishop Laud caused by the Act of Attainder was responsible for the widening of the gap between the King and the Parliament. For this Act allowed the declaration of guilt and the imposition of punishment on an individual without a proper trial. The Royal Counselors, the Secretary of State and Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal fled to save their lives.
Charles I charged five parliament members with high treason, and sent armed forces to arrest them. The Parliament refused to hand them over. Charles planned to go personally to arrest the five Knights. But they received information of this in advance and fled.
In 1642 AD the Parliament placed before the King a proposal known as "Nineteen Propositions." This ultimatum was delivered to the King on June 1, 1642. He refused to accept the terms of the proposal.
iv. The Immediate Cause of the War
The parliament wanted the sole command of the military forces. This was contrary to English law and Charles I refused to agree to this enactment. As Charles would not surrender his control over the army, the rupture was complete. Charles raised his troops and set up his standard at Nottingham as a signal that the Civil War had began.
The English Civil War had two phases: Phase I from 1642 - 1646; Phase II from 1646 - 1649