How was England governed in the early 17th Century
Charles I succeed James I’s place as King in March 1625. He inherited the place without any trouble or possible pretender to challenge his title, which was rarely seen in the pass few centuries. This was a big advantage to Charles because England has been grown in fears of disrupted successions. Under Charles’ ruling, no party was allowed apart from his government, so room for dissent was so limited. People tended to unit together as groups. Charles was a very religious man, so different religious beliefs were developing; different fashion and tastes in entertainment were being developed.
In this essay, I am going to analyse how England was governed in the early 17th century under Charles I The monarchy was the most important part of the government, Charles had full control within the government and the country, and he had to rule the country as well as reigned. Charles saw the monarchy so important because he was self-righteous and had a high concept of royal authority, believing in the divine right of kings. Charles appointed his own men to his Privy Council; the council gave advice to him.
As the Privy Council consist a lot of members who were mostly nobilities, Bishop and Archbishops, it is a disadvantage when making decisions; it often reacted very slowly, so Kings and Queens usually made their own decision outside the meetings held with the Privy Council. However, England’s monarchy was unique compare to other countries in Western Europe; the King had neither a large body of civilian officials nor an army. He had no standing professional army, and didn’t have the money to consider raising one. He was depended on the local militia, which was a very badly organised force.
It was run by a collection of unpaid local officials who were already turning out to be inadequate for the burdens Charles wanted to lay on them; they were also very vulnerable to local pressure. The idea made Charles so powerful was the Royal Prerogative powers, which were supported by the widespread belief in the Divine Right of Kings. The Royal Prerogative was an executive power, the power the change things. The King had the power to handle foreign policy such as declare war on other countries; also he had the right to summon the armed forces, they only took orders from the King.
England was currently in alliance with Spain and France, but compare to these two continental giant, England was a second rate power, due to England’s disorganised armed forces. However, Charles was free to make and break alliances. Parliament was called and dissolved by King’s will, King had the power to rearrange the sitting the Parliament. From the beginning of Charles’ reign, many members of Parliament feared that Charles might set out to rule without Parliament. The more they feared this prospect, the more they forced it upon Charles by failing to vote him adequate sums of money for foreign financing.
This did nothing to improve Parliament’s chances of survival. Charles could appoint all judges and ministers, they didn’t have to be chosen by the Parliament, so as the members of the Privy Council. The characteristic during Charles’ reign was religion; he was a very religious man. Charles’ England was a solidly Christian country. Everyone was forced by law to go to church every Sunday. Charles himself was the Head of Church in England. There are two main Courts of The Royal Prerogative.
The Court of Star Chamber included King’s Privy Council and major law judges. They heard cases brought to the court by petition. The Council in the North and The Council in the Marches of Wales, they administered royal justice in these areas. The Parliament was seen as less important in the government in comparison with today’s government. However, Parliament had a strong sense of its own rights. The members of the Parliament had freedom of speech; they had the right to discuss the matters of commonwealth such as taxation, the poor law.
The King has no right to enter the chamber of the House of Commons. The main functions of the Parliament were to advise the King, help the King pass laws. To get an agreement in the Parliament, majority support of the Lords and Commons and the Royal Assent were needed. The Parliament also needed to approve the collection of taxes in an emergency situation such as declaring war with other countries. The Parliament consist two houses: The House of Lords and The House of Commons. The House of Lords tended to be the smaller House among these two.
It consist about 90 hereditary lords. However, many of the most important members of the Commons owed their seats to Lords, and they often acted as spokesmen. Also many of the most experienced members of the Commons thought success or failure in their political plans depended on the attitude of the Lords. So although the House of the Lords consist small number of MPs, it was seen as more important than the Commons. In the Lords, a block vote of Privy Councilors and bishops could usually win any vote in which they were united.
However, during Charles’ reign, usually the issues concerned Parliaments were ones which divided the Privy Council and the bishops, and it was that possible that the King’s opponent might win a majority in the Lords. But the Bishops and judges were appointed by the King. The House of Commons consist about 500 members, majority of them were gentry but also wealthy merchants, lawyers and government officials. The Commons also included some members usually dependents of House of the Lords, who had a seriously plan for the national government.
Members were elected by landowners and the wealthier citizens in towns. The Lower Class did not have the right to vote. Many of the MPs did not have houses in London, only took lodgings in London for the brief period of Parliamentary session. They didn’t have much ambition for national power, and certainly not the top of the Parliament. The meetings held by the Commons tended to be disorganised, it is not surprising since 500 members had to crown into a space about the size of a cricket pitch. So the meetings usually only had one or two hundred attendance.
The Commons didn’t want power; it wanted to critise the holders of power. The last power I want to write about is the Justices of Peace, the JPs. They were a part of county officials. JPs were appointed by the King as commissioners of the peace. Majority of them were Gentlemen, Knights. They owned a certain amount of lands. They were quite influential; their job was to persuade people to obey the law. They were armed as well, which means they rode horses and carried weapons around. Although increasing amount of works was put on the JPs, people were enthusiastic to join it.
However, the JPs were unpaid and voluntary. They often meet individually in their own homes or in the local alehouse. They also held meetings together at quarter-sessions to deal with the more general and important issues, which happened four times a year in main county towns. Their main responsibility was to judge in criminal cases and send more serious cases for trials by jury under the circuit judges supervising. The Privy Council expected the JPs to administer a large number of rules and regulations, such as poor relief, regulating alehouses and maintaining roads.