Charles I ascended the English throne in the year 1625 after the death of King James I. In the very first year of his reign, Charles offended his protestant subjects by marrying Henrietta Maria who was a Catholic French Princess. In order to deal with the political opposition against him he dissolved Parliament on several occasions. Later in the year 1629, he decided to rule the entire country without the help of parliament. In the year of 1642, the struggle between Parliament and the King for supremacy led to the outbreak of the first English civil war (Wood 2015). During that war, Oliver Cromwell led the parliamentarians. Cromwell’s formidable Ironsides force won against the Royalist force of the King at Marston Moor in 1644 and at Naseby in 1645. After this defeat, Charles I was forced to appear before a high court that was entirely controlled by his enemies. There in the he was convicted of treason and was sentenced to death.
From the story above, it is easy to assume that Charles I was executed as he lost the civil war to the parliamentarians. However, reasons behind this execution are more complicated than this (Randall and Donald 2016). In order to understand the reasons behind the execution of Charles, two questions must be explored which are “how did Charles I contribute to the outbreak of Civil War in the year of 1642?” and “why did that result in his execution?” In England, The Civil War broke out for a number of reasons. However, it is also evident that not all of those were the faults of Charles I. The biggest example of this is the issues faced by the English state because of a number of long-term structural problems (Holmes, 2010, p.289). These problems were not responsible for the outbreak of Civil war; however, it created an environment that necessitates the outbreak of the war. On the other hand, problems of the Three Kingdoms, financial weakness of the crown and the country’s deep religious divides contributed to tense environment that could easily be ignited. Besides, it is also true that after Charles ascended to the throne, Parliament reacted negatively ever since (Lacey 2003, p.6). Parliament not only refused to grant him the customary right to tonnage and poundage, but also attacked royal prerogatives that were positively supporting Charles and demanded to provide all the rights to him.
According to Kelsey (2001, p.1), the war could be avoided if a more proficient monarch existed. Most of these issues were present even in the reigns of Elizabeth and James. Queen Elizabeth was brilliant at balancing dissimilar interest groups to maintain equilibrium. On the other hand, James was a great judge as he knew when to push an issue and when he should allow people to go their own way. Besides, he was always ready to step down from the throne and take part in business of debate, negotiation and persuasion (Peacey 2001). It is unexpected to see that Charles was unable to replicate more of James’s strengths. As a result, in number of ways he influenced the outbreak of war.
Charles was considered as untrustworthy as not many people used to have faith in him. Especially, parliamentary leaders had absolutely no faith in him. After his contravention of the Petition of Right which he had acceded to in 1628, he became the most untrustworthy person in England (Kelsey, 2004, p.71). On the other hand, while negotiating with the government of Scotland, he was also gathering an army does deal with them by force. In the year of 1647, when he was captured by parliamentarians, he spent most of the time motivating uprising all around the country. It is obvious that it is difficult to work with such a personality. On the other hand Charles I was also an uncompromising man (Bonney, 2001, p.247). He did not know how to bend and never considered that other people may be right. It was inevitable that such a person will only create divisions in those areas where there was no division. The factors can be divided into several factors such as social, economic and religious factors.
The biggest weakness of the English Crown under the rule of Charles I was its poor monetary situation. From centuries, Parliament is responsible for granting any type of taxation while monarchs did not have the authority to impose it arbitrarily. This clearly shows that Parliament always has a significant place in the politics of England and the crows have always relied on them (Orr 2002). This principle was strongly entrenched in the mindset of the English people. As a result, monarch did not have the power to directly implement taxation policies on the English people. That is why; Charles’ financially creative rules and regulations such as Ship Money and Forest Fines faced tremendous opposition in the regime. In the case of ship money, Charles faced greatest opposition from John Hampden in the year of 1637. In spite of that, vast majority of that year’s ship money was collected by Charles and his followers. Over the years, that ship money was the most tax policy in the history of Britain.
Most historians stated that Charles decisions related to religion was the main reason behind the outbreak of Civil War that led to his execution. Most the parliamentarians strongly believed that Charles was a secret Catholic or Papist. However, it was undeniably untrue. He was a strong supporter of the established Church of England (Wedgwood 2011). However, it is true that he was very much towards the “right wing” of the Church. All his believes were described variously as High Church, Laudian and Arminian. Charles was person who advocated higher number of ceremonies and rituals in the Church of England. For instance, Charles was the person who motivated kneeling at the altar rails, a strong, prestigious and wealthy clergy. He also initiated frivolous sporting activities after the services of church on Sundays (Bremer 2015). Puritans who were the extreme Protestants did not like these types of “popish creativities.” On the other hand, moderate Protestants were also not happy with such decisions. Along with plague and bad harvest that were considered as the God’s punishment the issue of religion caused a great deal of bitterness towards Charles I. This situation worsened further when Charles tried to force Laudian prayer book on the people of Scotland. It led to the popular Prayer Book Rebellion. The consequences of this, possibly, led directly to the outbreak of Civil War in England.
Along with the reasons that are mentioned above, some other short-term causes are also there that facilitated the English Civil war (Carlton 2002). Some of those reasons are the Irish Rebellion, the Army Plots, the attempt on the Five Members and the Grand Remonstrance. All these factors are not only related to the English Civil war but also are connected to the execution of Charles I. He took the concept of Divine Right of Kings seriously. Besides, he also misunderstood the people and their political traditions. Besides, another big mistake committed by him was to try and rule without Parliament over a decade. In order to avoid the tradition of asking for approval from Parliament while implementing any taxation policies, Charles started to use several backdoor taxes (Sharp 2001). He used them in ways and to extent ahead of any precedent. This method of Charles even worked, so long as there was no astonishing disbursement.
It is already discussed that he brought several religious changes that actually seemed to people as backsliding from Protestantism to Catholicism. Especially, the people of Scotland violently resisted against those new religious rules and regulations. In order to deal with the people of Scotland, Charles I then started to raise an army. However, he could not handle the cost of raising an army only from his backdoor taxes. As a result, he had to re-summon the Parliament after a long time (Holmes 2007). Over a decade’s backlog of confined grievances, the members of parliament showed nothing but their anger. As a result, Charles quickly dismissed the parliament. However, his problems related to Scotland still remained and he still needed money to raise an army. Therefore, he called another parliament where the members showed even more anger that their predecessor.
In the end, Charles declared war against the parliament and eventually got defeated. As the war dragged in, the probable consequences became steadily bigger. After enormous numbers of death, destruction and disruption, it became ever less likely that a negotiated peace would be possible (Bremer, 2015, p.105). However, it is also true that both the sides tried to implement a negotiation method. In The end, the process did not take place as parliamentarians though that they could not trust Charles to rule and defend them in the first place, how could they do so now? Charles fought a bloody war against the parliament at first, and then he tried to initiate a peace agreement (Collins, 1974). Then he betrayed his partners who helped him to negotiate peace agreement and kicked off another civil war. Charles lost that battle too and tried to initiate another peace agreement. The incidents further influenced the parliamentarians and stopped them from trusting Charles.
Along with these reasons, there were some personal reasons related to some parliamentary leaders such as Cromwell and Ireton. For these people it was a do or die situation. These people opposed the king so many times that they were afraid of their own lives. They feared if a negotiation method takes place, Charles will try everything and anything to have them executed (Sellin and Lacy 2000, p.242). This was further compounded by the fact that Pride’s Purge had effectively expelled the moderators from the parliament. People who were radicals stayed in the parliament. This includes radical leader who were in power of the New Model Army.
Besides, prisoner Charles directly initiated the Second Civil War. During this second civil war, the country experienced number uprisings around the entire nation. Those uprisings so many times attempted to rescue the king. The number of rebellion and geography of the evolution was so powerful that parliamentarians could have problem dealing with them. However, on the other hand, as the New Army so powerful that it brutally defeated the rebellions. From this situation, parliamentarian again understood that in no situation they can trust the king Charles (Bremer 2015). While talking about the incident of “Execution of Charles I”, most of the historians stated that it was the fault of Charles that initiated the first English Civil War and that is why; as an inevitable consequence of the war, Charles was executed. However, some historians such as Kevin Sharpe and Mark Kishlansky believed that parliamentarians were responsible for the civil war and execution of Charles.
After the execution of Charles, two things can be assumed. One, Charles and his policies and untrustworthy attitude was responsible for the execution. Two, it was the parliamentarians who did not comply with the king and executed him in order to claim the power once again. However, it can be stated that members of parliament always tried to offer their loyalty to the King, or more clearly to the office of the King (Bonney, 2001, p.247). From the beginning, the primary motto of the parliamentarians was to serve for the king only. They used to believe that “For King and Parliament.” Therefore, it can be stated that parliamentarians did not put the king of England, Scotland and Ireland on trial; however, they put the man Charles on trial for treason against the country.
There are several debates on the trail and execution of King Charles I. Some historians stated that parliamentarians forcefully plotted the execution against the king. On the other hand, some believe that Charles deserved this. However, after analysis all the facts in this essay, it can be stated that both historians are right (Peacey 2001). At one hand, Charles neglected the supremacy of parliament and tried to rule and implement rules and regulations on his own. On the other hand, he betrayed the parliamentarians and his followers several times. Because of his continuous betrayal, parliamentarians could not trust King Charles in the end (Randall and Donald 2016). They also feared that if Charles lives then he will again ignite the fire of evolution. As a result, they decided to execute King Charles I.
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