How far religion can be blamed

The following essay intends to assess how far religion can be blamed for the growing tensions between both James I and Charles I and their Parliaments between 1618 and 1629. It will therefore look at all aspects of a Kings power such as religion, finance, foreign policy in order o find out the extent to which religion can be blamed for these tensions, and come to a conclusion as to what other factors had a role in both creating and expanding those existing tensions.

James I came to power in England in 1603, bringing with him his beliefs of the ‘Divine Right of King,’ believing that he was only answerable to God. This religious belief therefore made it impossible for parliament to intervene in the role of the country to the extent that they had done under the reign of Elizabeth I. This caused the initial tension between King and Parliament, as they were unhappy with the way they were treated- James was unwilling to listen to criticism of his unpopular diplomatic schemes.

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However, little use for parliament meant that James’ extravagant spending habits and nonchalant ignoring of the nobilities grievances kept King and Parliament constantly at odds. This caused further tensions between them, as the king could not gain enough of the funds he needed for his spending habits through any other means other than parliament; therefore, he kept calling and summoning them throughout his reign as king of England. Parliament also refused to disburse funds to a king whom ignored their concerns as James did. They were annoyed by rewards lavished on favourites such as James awarded over200 peerages (landed titles) which were essentially bribes in reward for loyalty and his creation of George Villiers as Duke of Buckingham. The financial issues in effect could also help to explain these growths of tensions

Yet in 1618, we saw the outbreak of the Thirty Years War, the outbreak of which polarised religious groups- a choice had to be made by people as to whether they were Catholic or Protestant. However, James adopted a Calvinist viewpoint where pre- determination was believed to be present. Jacob Arminis and thus the Armenians questioned his viewpoint. These believed in Protestantism and Kingship, and were like Catholics in both their appearance and Worship. James did not wish to support the Armenians, however, in the early 1620’s; he favoured them due o heir support of Kingship and with it, authority over others, without irrational hatred of popery as other religious groups had. This caused a growth of tensions between him and his parliament, as these saw Armenians to be too symbolic of Catholics and as such, feared them. This tension was further built when James allowed Richard Montagu, an Armenian to publish a book about Arminianism. Shortly after his, March 1625, James died, and Charles I took his position as King of England.

The Thirty Years was could also be looked at from a political point of view. This war forced James to summon parliament 1621 due to financial pressures. This was mainly concerned with foreign policy, so when the House of Commons tried to debate the wider aspects of this and assert their right to discuss any subject, as previously agreed by James he dissolved them. This caused further tensions between King and Parliament, as James’ lack to keep prior agreements meant that the Parliament were being made powerless within a country whereby their role was to assist the king in decision making in order to deliver the best prospects to its people. These tensions, in effect, distanced the King and Parliament, making their “united jobs” within the country non-evident, possibly due to James’ religious beliefs of the ‘Divine Rights of Kings.’

Charles I, like his father was a deeply religious man, whom favoured the high Anglican, forms of worship. He found himself even more in disagreement on both religious and financial matters with Parliament than his father. Ill-fated wars with France and Spain brought about a crisis in 1628-29. Alongside this, two expeditions to France, led by Buckingham, a man of political influence and military power (favourite of both Charles I and James I) added to parliamentary tensions. Unfortunately for the kings, there was a general dislike of Buckingham, causing political controversy; the Monarch’s right was to choose his own ministers, yet they had to be acceptable to Parliament or there would be repeated confrontations. In effect, this again caused a growth between King and Parliament, as this “acceptability” was not present.

Looking at Charles’ reign from a religious aspect, tensions were present from the outset; left by James; yet he made matters worse for himself firstly due to his marriage to a Roman Catholic- a person whom Parliament already feared. This was a marriage seen ominous at a time when plots against Elizabeth I and the Gunpowder plot in James I’s reign were still fresh in the collective memory of people. Charles had promised Parliament in 164 that there would be no advantages of recustants, however, he did not keep to this, as he favoured the Arminians, leaving Calvinists excluded- he allowed them to “run free.” This broke Charles’ earlier promise to Parliament, something that did not best please them. Again, this matter was made worse due to Charles’ present favourites, Richard Montagu, who was made Royal Chaplin, later becoming Bishop of Chichester and William Laud becoming Bishop of London. Both of these were Arminians so the Parliament instantly disliked these decisions, made worse by the fact that these new positions within England allowed them to have a greater influence over the King (especially as they stressed obedience to authority), something which not even they had managed to obtain.

Overall, it is clear that the relationship between King and Parliament steadily eroded. This was caused not only by religion, but also by a number of contributing factors such as extravagant pending, and bungled foreign policies, which discredited the Kings in the eyes of Parliament. Therefore, it can be said that religion played a strong part in creating the growing tensions between king and parliament between 1618 and 1629 but it was not the sole factor. It could equally be argued that tensions between King and Parliament centred around finances, and matters such as the costs of war abroad, religion and foreign policy simply added to this central, strongest and most significant tension. Finance!