The English Civil War/Causes

To understand why Civil War erupted in England following decades of strong and powerful rule by the monarchy and why the "Supreme Head" of the land, the king himself was executed, we need to delve in to some background history first.

Rise of the Middle ClassesEdit

During the end of the Middle Ages and particularly in the reign of Henry VII from 1485 to 1509, the English middle class rapidly expanded, and so did their importance and influence in society. Around this time, overseas trade and contact began to develop and flourish through increased contact with Asia and Africa, and in particular, the discovery of the Americas by Christopher Columbus in 1492, and some people in England started a living from exploiting this "Golden Opportunity" and becoming merchants and tradesmen. As their wealth increased, and they emerged out of poverty, they began to gain status and standing in society.

At the same time, the social system of feudalism in place since the Norman invasion of England and the power of the nobles and aristocracy began to decline, as a result of Henry's legislation against them, and one distinct social class began to emerge out of this period called the gentry who mainly included landowners and wealthy merchants.

The new rising middle class and gentry demanded more say in the politics and affairs of the country and a large number of them were elected as members of Parliament in the House of Commons. However, during this time, Parliament still remained a temporary advisory committee that could be called and dismissed at any time by the monarch - but two centuries more of history were about to change all that. Despite the power that they wielded, the Kings and Queens of the Tudor period began to increasingly rely on Parliament as times and circumstances changed. It was not long before they realized that to govern the Kingdom, they would need the support of Parliament, the "Representatives of the People" as it was known.

Direct confrontation and the beginning of hostility between King and Parliament only began during the reign of James I (1603 - 1625). Before this, the previous monarchs of the Tudor dynasty, particularly Elizabeth I managed to get along well with Parliament and of the relatively small number of disputes they had with each other , they managed to resolve them at the end through negotiation and discussion, although it was always Elizabeth who had the final say.

Parliament, and the middle classes and gentry had gained so much rapid influence under the Tudors, that they argued that they were a formal governing body which would rule in conjunction with monarch, rather than than just simply a temporary advisory committee that could be called and dissolved at any time by will, and the idea quickly established itself under the new ruling Stuart dynasty. This could probably explain why every time James or Charles dissolved Parliament , there was much condemnation and deterioration of relations towards the King.

Division brewing under James IEdit

Under the new Stuart dynasty by James I who united England and Scotland under one monarch, a visible rift first began to develop between King and Parliament over the issues such as religion where James wanted to tolerate Catholics and allow them to worship freely in their own church, taxes (although this was mainly inherited from the last years of Elizabeth's reign when MPs complained about heavy taxes to fund wars against France, Spain and Ireland) and the increasingly important issue of how much Parliament should be allowed to be involved in the running of the country and to what extent they were allowed to do this before it became a direct threat to his position as the sovereign King of England.

Matters were only made worse when James stated and continuously reinforced his strong belief in the "Divine Right of Kings" which held that monarchs were chosen by God to rule the kingdom, and could rule in any way they wished and that anyone who disagreed with him had disagreement with God. During his reign, he dissolved Parliament in a number of occasions as a result of the disputes he had with it.