Èñòîðè÷åñêàÿ ëè÷íîñòü /
Charles I became the English King in the twenty – fifth year of his age. Unlike his father, he was usually amiable in his private character, and grave and dignified in his bearing; but, like his father, he had monstrously exaggerated notions of his rights of a king and was not to be trusted. If his word could have been relied upon, his history would have had a different end.
His first care was to send for Henrietta Maria and bring her from Paris to be his Queen. The English people were very well disposed to like new Queen, and to receive her with great favour when she came among them as a stranger. But she greatly disliked the Protestant religion and brought with her a crowd of unpleasant priests, who made her do some very ridiculous things. And that was the reason that the people soon disliked her, and she soon began dislike them, and she did so much insetting the King against his subject that it would have been better for him if she had never been born.
Charles I began his reign by continuing the war policy which had made him popular in his father’s lifetime; but the war brought neither honour nor profit to England and Parliament was indisposed to support it. By granting tunnage and poundage for one year only parliament was able to put an effectual stop to the war. Charles called too upon the seaports to furnish and to pay all the costs for three months of a fleet of armed ships and he required the people to unite in lending him large sums of money and it was very doubtful that he would repay them. But if the poor people refused they were pressed as soldiers or soldiers; if more or less rich people refused the were sent to prison. Then the question came to be solemnly decided whether this was not a violation of Magna Charta and an encroachment by the King on the highest rights of the English people. The King’s lawyers answered NO, because to encroach upon the rights of the English people would be to do wrong and the King could not do wrong. And here was a fatal division between the King and the people.
The expedition to Cadiz in 1625 turned out a failure.
The King’s marriage with Henrietta Maria of France created new difficulties for him. He was now allied to a Catholic Power engaged in suppressing its own Protestant subjects – the Huguenots at La Rochelle – and was expected to help it in this task at the very time when he was promising his own Parliament to carry out strict penal laws against Catholics at home, and when he was sending money he could ill afford to support a Protestant prince in Germany.
For all this it was necessary to call another Parliament. The people sensible of the danger in which their liberties were chose for the Commons those who were best known for their determined opposition of the King; but still the King quite blinded by his determination to carry everything before him addressed them when they met in a contemptuous manner and just told them in so many words that he had only called them together because he wanted money. The Parliament strong enough and resolute to know that they could lower his tone, cared little for what he said and laid before him the document called the Petition of Right requiring that the free men of England should no longer be pressed or imprisoned for refusing to do so; further that the free men of England should no longer be seized by the King’s special mandate or warrant as it is contrary to their rights and liberates and the laws of their country. At first the King refused to answer to his petition; but the House of Commons then showed their determination to go on with the impeachment of Buckingham and the King in great alarm gave his consent to all that was required of him.
Buckingham to gratify his own wounded vanity had by this time involved the country in war with France as well as with Spain. But one morning when he was going out of his
house to his carriage he was violently stabbed with a knife which the murderer left sticking in his heart. This happened in his hall. His servant wanted to seize some French gentlemen who were in the house and wanted to kill them. In the middle of the noise the real murderer who had gone into the kitchen and might easily have got away drew his sword and cried out: “I am a man!” His name was John Felton and he was a Protestant and a retired officer of the army. He said that he had killed the Duke as a course of the country. John Felton was executed for the murder in 1628.
A parliament however was still in existence. Englishmen had been fighting for hundreds of years to make it certain that the sovereign of the country should rule by law, and Charles I was sure he was free to do ass he wished.
Charles was angry at some remarks made in the House of Commons and he sent his messenger to summon the members in his presence to be rebuked. It happened on the twentieth of January, 1629. A great patriot whose name was Eliot and he had been very active in the Petition of Right, sprang to his feet, and in blazing anger defended the right of free speech in the House. As he spoke the door was locked and the King’s Messenger battered vainly outside. The Speaker who ruled the debates was the King’s friend and he wanted to get out and leave the chair but he was held down to his place. A scene of great confusion arose among the members; and while many swords were dawn and flashing about the King who was kept informed of all that told the captain of the guard to go down to his House. Through all that noise loud cried of “Aye, aye!” – supported Eliot in his claims of English liberty. He finished with the words never forgotten: “None have gone about to break Parliaments, but in the end Parliaments have broken them”.
The resolutions were, however, voted and the House adjourned. Sir Jones Eliot and those two members who had held the Speaker down were quickly summoned before the council. As they claimed to their privilege not to answer out of the Parliament for anything they had said in it they were committed to the Tower. The King then went down and dissolved the Parliament in a speech calling these gentlemen “Vipers”.
Those gentlemen refused to gain their liberty by saying that they were sorry for what they have done and the King always remarkably unforgiving never forgot this offence. When they demanded to be brought up before the court of King’s Bench, Charles ordered to move them from prison to prison. At last they came before the court and were sentenced to heavy fines and to be imprisoned during the King’s pleasure. Sir John Eliot’s health had quite given away and he longed like this for change of air and scene as to petition for his release, the King sent back the answer that the petition was not humble enough. Eliot sent another petition through his young son pathetically promising to return to prison as soon as his health was restored, if he might be released for its recovery, the King still disregarded it. Whet Eliot died in the Tower, and his children petitioned to be allowed to take their father’s body down to Cornwall, there to lay it among the ashes of his forefathers, the King returned for answer: “Let Sir John Eliot’s body be buried in the church of that parish where he died”.
Charles ruled without Parliament for nearly twelve years. During this time he trampled ore and more heavily on the liberties of the country, and many people joined the Mayflower emigrants over the sea.
In this period of personal rule Charles had two chief advisers, Buckingham was killed in 1628, and now his place was taken by Thomas Wentworth, afterwards Lord Strafford, and William Laud, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury.
Meanwhile the King was anxious to interfere in foreign affairs. It seemed likely in 1634 that the Dutch and the French would divide the Spanish Netherlands between them – a prospect which England could hardly view with satisfaction.
In his desperate need of money Charles decided to levy ship – money, a tax formerly raised in war – time from the maritime counties. But England was at peace; and in 1635 the tax was extended to the whole kingdom. General indignation caused Charles that when the kingdom was in danger, a question of which the King was the only judge, the whole kingdom must bear the burden. When once more ship – money was demanded, John Hampden and Lord Saye refused to pay, and the judges by a small majority decided against them in 1637.
The King levied those duties of tonnage and poundage, and even increased them. He granted monopolies to companies of merchants on their paying him for them, notwithstanding the great complaints that had been made on the subject of monopolies for years and years. He fined the people for disobeying king’s proclamations. He revived the detested Forest Laws and took private property to himself as his forest right.
At that time religion had an equal share with politics in the problems of government. James I had tried to thrust Episcopacy upon Scots, and had actually succeeded in bringing the General Assembly – the Presbyterian Council of Church Government – to recognize the bishops he created. But Scotland remained Presbyterian at heart, and the bishops were entirely without influence. Such a position would not satisfy Charles and Laud, who determined to force a Service Book, which was practically the English Prayer Book upon the Scots, with the results that a large part of the Scottish nation bound itself by a National Covenant to maintain Presbyterians in 1638. The King still persisted and the Scots took up arms; but it was clear that Charles without money and Parliamentary support, could do nothing. He therefore was obliged to agree to the