1641 The Grand Remonstrance

The relationship between King Charles I and Parliament began on a sour note.

Charles, who had been personally insulted in marriage negotiations with Spain, forced a war upon the divided Parliament in 1625.

Charles I by Daniel Mytens

Though the House of Commons agreed to the war, the first Parliament of his reign did not explicitly grant Charles the traditional right to collect excise and import duties, known as poundage and tonnage.

The war with Spain expanded to include France and over the next few years, bankrupted the country.  Charles faced increasing opposition from the House of Commons until he prorogued Parliament in 1629.

For the next eleven years, Charles attempted to rule the country without Parliament.

This was not in and of itself unusual – Charles father James had ruled without parliament for a period of seven years – but given the antagonistic nature of Charles and the House of Commons, Charles own authoritarian style of government and finally his overwhelming unpopularity, the decision to move to Personal Rule was politically dangerous.


Charles was able to rule without Parliament for so long, mostly because the wars with France and Spain had been concluded and he avoided entering continental conflicts throughout the 1630s.

Internally though, dissent grew as Charles imposed his sense of decorum and order upon the government and the churches.

Charles attempted throughout his reign to unite the governments of his three Kingdoms, with quite poor results.

In fact, it was his attempt to unify all of his kingdoms under one prayer book that resulted in Civil War in Scotland.

Prayerbook Rebellion

For the first time since he prorogued Parliament in 1629, Charles needed to raise funds to prosecute a war and to do that, he needed to recall Parliament.

The resulting session, known as the Short Parliament because it sat for only three weeks, saw the King and the Commons at loggerheads.

The King saw Parliament as his bankroll so that he could execute a war against the rebelling Scots.

The Commons saw Parliament as a chance to present Charles with a list of their grievances, which had been unaddressed in the years of Personal Rule.

Charles and Parliament

After a few weeks of deadlock, Charles realized that the Commons had no intention of helping him and called Parliament to an end.

This action fed the accusations of paranoia that had dogged him all of his life.

The Scots invaded England and the English army in the North rebelled and rioted alongside Scottish troops.

It became apparent to all that Charles would have to call another Parliament, this time called the Long Parliament as it sat for eight years.

The Long Parliament pulled concession after concession out of Charles:

  • The Triennial Act which stated that Parliament must be called at least once every three years;
  • The imprisonment and execution of some of Charles closest advisors;
  • The abolition of the Star Chamber, a kind of supreme court which always acted in favour of the king.

In 1641 a bloody rebellion brokeirish rebellions.jpg out in Ireland and Parliament adopted the Grand Remonstrance, reciting the evils of Charles’s reign and demanding church reform and parliamentary control over the army and over the appointment of royal ministers.

Charles responded to the Grand Remonstrance by attempting to arrest the MPs responsible for it, which drove a further wedge between the court and the Commons.

By 1642, the English Civil War had begun in earnest.



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