Religious Divisions

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There were many religious divisions within England before James and Charles even came to power. Mary was a Catholic and hence wanted her country to follow suit, yet when her sister Elizabeth came to power, the church became protestant again, therefore the foundations for religious unsettlement was already there. However, many of the actions James and Charles did whilst in power made this religious gap even larger. James was a protestant and this pleased the mainly protestant England, as many thought he would be Catholic, much like his mother.

However, the Catholics felt that as his mother was a Catholic, he would be sympathetic toward their religion and agree to let them have their services, as Elizabeth had denied whilst in power. At first, James was happy to agree to this as he aimed to appease the Catholics yet soon he was losing money from not fining Catholic services and hence re-installed the injunction against Catholic masses and those who were caught were fined. This angered the Catholics as they had thought James would be tolerant of them because of his mother. This inevitably led to the gunpowder plot.

As the culprits were found to be Catholics, Kind James lost all sympathy for them and became more insensitive toward all Catholics. This in turn created a larger division between Catholics and none-Catholics because the Catholics, as they had during Elizabeth’s reign, felt persecuted. However, harsher measures for the Catholics could have been well beyond his control. The king will have had little choice because if he had not punished the criminals, he may have been seen to be inviting more assassination attempts. Yet, the Gunpowder plot may have not happened if he had been more tolerant as he had promised.

Another reason for the religious division within England during James’ Reign was the Hampton Court conference in 1604. The Puritans had been making demands to make the protestant church less Catholic inclined and more Puritan. At first, James had some sympathy towards the Puritans and agreed to hold a conference with Puritan leaders and Bishops on the Church of England to help come to an agreement. However, just before the conference James lost all sympathy for the Puritans as they were making further demands and rallying for petitions.

James felt that the Puritans were trying to take away the control of the Church from the ruling classes. Hence, at the conference the Puritans had only a small amount of demands met; their main demands were disregarded fully. This increased the religious gap and also led to Bancroft’s canons. Bancroft was the Archbishop of Canterbury and he felt the same about Puritans as James did. After the conference Bancroft introduced a set of rules that all protestant ministers must adhere to, such as ministers must wear robes, a wedding ring must be worn, and ministers must agree to everything in the prayer book.

This caused a greater religious division as it was compulsory that all citizens of England attended protestant ceremonies. The King James Bible was created in 1604 and first published in 1611. It was made so that everyone would be able to read it and hence make up their own minds on religions such as Anglicism. As he was in charge of translating it there was much controversy on whether it was biased as he told the translators to make sure it reflected the Church of England’s structure and beliefs and to make sure puritan influence was limited.

Therefore, the religious division grew more, between Puritans. However, the King James Bible was good because it gave people the choice, as they could now make their mind up about the bible because all who could read it did. When Charles came into power he immediately promoted William Laud, which his father had refused to do during his reign. Charles was Anglican and so was Laud, Laud also believed very strongly in divine right, as Charles did. Lauds beliefs were too ‘out there’ for James, yet Charles had very similar beliefs to him.

Laud became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1630 and immediately started to make changes within the church. He moved the communion table and turned it into an alter, which only the Catholics used and was very sympathetic toward Catholicism. This made the public believe he was a secret Catholic and as England was mainly protestant, this angered the country. Laud even began to make the Pope believe that the Church of England was turning Catholic. Charles also married a Catholic and this, combined with Laud’s sympathy toward the Catholic faith, made the Puritans dislike the Anglicans more.

Also, Once Laud came into power he began to make the head decisions within the Church. Once a Bishop died he would instil a Laudian in his place. Laud began to persecute Puritans and even arrested Puritan writers and preachers. Charles did nothing to stop this and hence this caused more disruption within the Protestant church. In conclusion, although there was already a lot of religious differences in England before both James and Charles came into power, a lot of their actions did not help.

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