James I showed little interest in his younger son, Charles, until the heir to the throne, Henry, died in 1612. “Baby” Charles was, however, great friends with James’ favorite “Sweet Steenie.”
Charles’ first excursion into politics involved his trip to Spain with Buckingham to work out the details of his marriage to the Spanish infanta. He was so humiliated by the experience that he joined with parliamentary MPs (Members of Parliament) in persuading James to declare war on Spain.
Shortly after James’ death, Charles married a fourteen-year old French (and Catholic) princess, Henriette Maria. Buckingham, who had negotiated the marriage treaty, had promised to suspend the penal laws against Catholics as part of the deal.
From the first, Charles’ relationships with Parliament were stormy. In 1625 MPs only voted him tonnage and poundage for one year instead of life. In 1626 the H of C brought a Bill of Impeachment against Buckingham. In 1628 Parliament presented the king with four resolutions, known as the Petition of Right, decrying Charles’ use of forced loans, arbitrary imprisonment, billeting, and martial law.
Religious differences also led to difficulties between Charles and the H of C. Charles’ wife was Catholic, and he himself leaned toward Arminianism.
From 1629-1640 Charles ruled without Parliament. His ministers, the Earl of Stratford and William Laud, employed a strategy of “Thorough” to help the king get by without parliamentary subsidies. Of all the financial strategies employed by Charles, the most controversial was Ship Money, which was collected from inland as well as coastal towns for six years (1635-1640). The fear was that if the king could on his own authority establish an annual non-parliamentary tax, there would be no limits on the royal prerogative.
Laud’s religious policies were equally unpopular. He sought to restore unity to the Church by enforcing strict observance to the ceremonies in the Book of Common Prayer. While he suppressed Puritan lecturers, he treated Roman Catholics tolerantly.
The crisis came in 1637 when
Laud and Charles tried to introduce the English Prayer Book to Scotland,
and the Scots revolted and invaded England. Although Parliament was called
to raise money for an army to defend England against the Scots, the English
Parliament declared that it would vote no subsidies until its grievances