Queen Elizabeth was followed to the throne by James VI of Scotland, who became James I of England. James believed in the absolute power of the monarchy, and he had a rocky relationship with an increasingly vocal and demanding Parliament.
James I was a firm protestant, and in 1604 he expelled all Catholic priests from the island. This was one of the factors which led to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. A group of Catholic plotters planned to blow up Parliament when it opened on November 5. However, an anonymous letter betrayed the plot and most of the plotters were captured and executed.
During James I’s reign Protestant groups called Puritans began to gain a sizeable following. Puritans wanted to “purify” the church by paring down church ritual, educating the clergy, and limiting the powers of bishops. King James resisted this last. The powers of the church and king were too closely linked. “No bishop, no king,” he said.
James i’s attitude toward Parliament was clear. He commented in 1614 that he was surprised his ancestors “should have permitted such an institution to come into existence …. It is sedition in subjects to dispute what a king may do in the height of his power”.
Charles, the third child and second son of James I, was born in Dunfermline Palace on November 19, 1600. After the death of his older brother, Henry, in 1612, Charles was given the title of Prince of Wales and became the heir to the throne. James I died on March 27, 1625.
When Charles I ascended to the throne in 1625, the British Isles were divided with several religious, political and social factions that had been growing since the late Tudor period.
Within four years of Charles’s coronation, these had manifested into deep disagreements between king and Parliament. Charles I (1625-49) continued his father’s hostile relationship with Parliament, squabbling over the right to levy taxes. Parliament responded with the Petition of Right in 1628.
It was the most dramatic assertion of the traditional rights of the English people since the Magna Carta. Its basic premise was that no taxes of any kind could be allowed without the permission of Parliament.
Charles I finally had enough, and in 1629 he dissolved Parliament and ruled without it for eleven years. Some of the ways he raised money during this period were of dubious legality by the standards of the time. (Most in this section is from David Ross)
Ultimately, the conflict between the King and Parliament led to civil war.
The English Civil Wars was three wars fought in England between those loyal to Charles I and those supporting Parliament, in 1642–6, 1648 and 1649–51.
They centered around a power struggle between King Charles I and Parliament, with battle lines drawn over deep-seated and complex divisions in politics, religion and economic policy. Families and communities at all levels of society were drawn into the conflict, and many suffered great losses.
At the heart of the upheaval was a radical challenge to the absolute power of the monarch – one which resulted in the only ever execution of a British monarch and the sole period of Republican rule in British history.
The wars forever altered the relationship between monarch and Parliament, stirring questions of power and democracy that led to the long, slow rise of Parliament as the main instrument of power in the land. (English Heritage)
When Charles I ascended to the throne in 1625, the British Isles were divided with several religious, political and social factions. There was no single cause of the wars, but three main sources of discontent emerged in the early years of Charles I’s reign, Politics, Religion and Economics.
King versus Parliament
Charles I extended the Ship Money levy from English ports to inland towns. This inclusion of inland towns was construed as a new tax without parliamentary authorization.
Over time, Parliament made increasing demands, which the king refused to meet. Neither side was willing to budge. Finally in 1642 fighting broke out.
The English Civil Wars are traditionally considered to have begun in England in August 1642, when Charles I raised an army against the wishes of Parliament, ostensibly to deal with a rebellion in Ireland. But the period of conflict actually began earlier in Scotland, with the Bishops’ Wars of 1639–40, and in Ireland, with the Ulster rebellion of 1641.
The war began as a series of indecisive skirmishes notable for not much beyond the emergence of a Parliamentary general from East Anglia named Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell transformed his erratic volunteer troops into the disciplined New Model Army.
Throughout the 1640s, war between King and Parliament ravaged England, but it also struck all of the kingdoms held by the house of Stuart – and, in addition to war between the various British and Irish dominions, there was civil war within each of the Stuart states.
For this reason the English Civil Wars might more properly be called the British Civil Wars or the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. The wars finally ended in 1651 with the flight of Charles II to France and, with him, the hopes of the British monarchy.
it has been estimated that the conflict in England and Wales claimed about 85,000 lives in combat, with a further 127,000 noncombat deaths (including some 40,000 civilians). The fighting in Scotland and Ireland, where the populations were roughly a fifth of that of England, was more brutal still.
As many as 15,000 civilians perished in Scotland, and a further 137,000 Irish civilians may well have died as a result of the wars there.
In all nearly 200,000 people, or roughly 2.5 percent of the civilian population, lost their lives directly or indirectly as a result of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms during this decade, making the Civil Wars arguably the bloodiest conflict in the history of the British Isles. (Britannica)
War’s Impact on the American Colonies
The outbreak of civil war between the King and Parliament opened an opportunity for the English state to consolidate its hold over the American colonies. In 1642, no permanent British North American colony was more than 35 years old. The crown and various proprietors controlled most of the colonies, but settlers from Barbados to Maine enjoyed a great deal of independence.
This was especially true in Massachusetts Bay, where Puritan settlers governed themselves according to the colony’s 1629 charter. Trade in tobacco and naval stores tied the colonies to England economically, as did religion and political culture, but in general the English left the colonies to their own devices.
Older colonies like Virginia and proprietary colonies like Maryland sympathized with the crown. Newer colonies like Massachusetts Bay, populated by religious dissenters taking part in the Great Migration of the 1630s, tended to favor Parliament.
Between 1630-43 large numbers of people emigrated from England as Archbishop Laud tried to impose uniformity on the church. Up to 60,000 people left, one-third of them to the new American colonies. Several areas lost a large part of their populations, and laws were enacted to curb the outflow.
Yet during the war the colonies remained neutral, fearing that support for either side could involve them in war. Even Massachusetts Bay, which nurtured ties to radical Protestants in Parliament, remained neutral. (American Yawp)
Parliament won the war, Charles I was executed, and England transformed into a republic and protectorate under Oliver Cromwell.
Charles I’s execution in 1649 altered that neutrality. Six colonies, including Virginia and Barbados, declared open allegiance to the dead monarch’s son, Charles II. Parliament responded with an Act in 1650 that leveled an economic embargo on the rebelling colonies, forcing them to accept Parliament’s authority.
England found itself in crisis after the death of Oliver Cromwell in 1658, leading in time to the reestablishment of the monarchy.
Charles II ruled effectively, but his successor, James II, made several crucial mistakes. Eventually, Parliament again overthrew the authority of their king, this time turning to the Dutch Prince William of Holland and his English bride, Mary, the daughter of James II. This relatively peaceful coup was called the Glorious Revolution.
English colonists in the era of the Glorious Revolution experienced religious and political conflict that reflected transformations in Europe. It was a time of great anxiety for the colonists. In the 1670s, King Charles II tightened English control over America, creating the royal colony of New Hampshire in 1678, and transforming Bermuda into a crown colony in 1684.
James II worked to place the colonies on firmer defensive footing by creating the Dominion of New England in 1686. Colonists had accepted him as king despite his religion but began to suspect him of possessing absolutist ambitions.
The Dominion consolidated the New England colonies plus New York and New Jersey into one administrative unit to counter French Canada, but colonists decried the loss of their individual provinces. The Dominion’s governor, Sir Edmund Andros, did little to assuage fears of arbitrary power when he impressed colonists into military service for a campaign against Maine Indians in early 1687.
In England, James’s push for religious toleration brought him into conflict with Parliament and the Anglican establishment. Fearing that James meant to destroy Protestantism, a group of bishops and Parliamentarians asked William of Orange, the Protestant Dutch Stadtholder, and James’s son-in-law, to invade the country in 1688.
When the king fled to France in December, Parliament invited William and Mary to take the throne, and colonists in America declared allegiance to the new monarchs. They did so in part to maintain order in their respective colonies. As one Virginia official explained, if there was “no King in England, there was no Government here.” A declaration of allegiance was therefore a means toward stability.
More importantly, colonists declared for William and Mary because they believed their ascension marked the rejection of absolutism and confirmed the centrality of Protestantism in English life. Settlers joined in the revolution by overthrowing the Dominion government, restoring the provinces to their previous status, and forcing out the Catholic-dominated Maryland government.
The biggest effect it had on the colonies was probably that it drove at least 3 separate waves of migration from England to America.
Before the war, the bulk of settlers were puritans from east of England came and settled in the northeast. After the war, most were former cavaliers, mostly from the south of England, who settled the Chesapeake and southern coasts.
After the restoration, there was as second wave of “puritans” but this time they were mostly from the north midlands, not east Anglia, who settled Pennsylvania and the surrounding area. These three areas all had profoundly different cultural attitudes, and settling in America made them starker, not milder. (American Yawp)
Click the following link to a general summary about English Civil Wars: