The Personal Rule of Charles I Charles I, born in Dunfermline, the son of James I and Anne of Denmark, was born in 1600. At the age of five he was made the Duke of York the Prince of Wales in 1616. When James I died in 1625, his son Charles became king. Upon becoming, the King Charles had a sense of greed growing, he would gain money through taxes and laws imposed only for the sense of profit and had been stubborn when it came to his ministers.
He imposed a lot of trust in his ministers and was reluctant when it came to their dismissal. The Personal Rule was a period in which Charles governed without any reference to Parliament in the years 1629-1640; he refused to summon any Parliaments until they had a better understanding of what he wanted to do. Historians in a major of ways described this period, but how effective was the period of the Personal rule and had Charles succeeded in governing effectively and financially.
Upon Buckingham’s dispersal, many former enemies of the King had made peace with him and entered his service. The Dukes of Arundel and Bristol, who had been against Buckingham in the House of Lords had decided that Parliament had gone too far in imposing the King and took up positions at Court. The death of the Duke of Buckingham had deeply affected Charles and the King had become reluctant to never again depend on one minister.
Upon introduction of the Personal rule period there was little reaction and resistance to the dispersing of Parliament, enemies of the king worked towards peace in an attempt to become his advisors, and many of them did succeed. King Charles was successful in governing without Parliament by cutting his expenses and increasing income. The greatest drain on resources was the wars against France and Spain leaving the economy at a disadvantage; however this was soon put to an end due to peace treaties being signed with France in 1629 and with Spain in 1630.
Peace brought an immediate revival of English trade and commerce. This in turn brought increased customs revenue because Charles continued to collect income through taxes without the agreement of Parliament. The first of Charles’ money schemes was to enforce a law complying that men who own a property worth more than ? 40 per annum shall receive knighthoods at the royal coronation and from 1630, Charles had also began fining everyone who failed to observe this law.
The knighthood fines had stacked up ? 100,000 by the end of the following year. The most condemned of taxes was Ship Money, a custom that required payment in order to keep naval defences on standby in the case of an emergency. In 1634, with Dunkirk pirates in the Channel and Barbary corsairs raiding Ireland, Cornwall and Devon for slaves, King Charles taxed the coastal counties to pay for the building of new warships. In 1635, he extended the tax to include inland counties.
Even though ship-money was intended to finance a new fleet for England’s defence, there were strong objections because the King had imposed what amounted to a new tax without the consent of Parliament. Charles’s decisions that he would call no more parliaments until his subjects had a better understanding of him indicated that the circumstances were exceptional; however it was not unusual for there to be long periods of time without Parliament such as the seven years between the parliaments of 1614 and 1621.
Charles’s believed that they weren’t an essential part of the daily government but more for the financial management and problems, which was the reason for the many gatherings that previously took place. At this point it may be said that Charles’ ability to finance his government effectively had been working, and to some extent his methods of financing had also reduced the resentment during the personal rule period.
By deducting some of his expenses and increasing taxes more revenue was generated; however it may also be considered that the taxes may have caused resentment as Ship money had been deeply condemned by some and Charles’ revival of the ‘Forest Law’ which was said to be sacred ground for some may have resented Charles’ for that decision. It didn’t stop there however, not only did Charles’ re-establish the Forest Law he also fined those who branded it as their sacred ground for all the previous years.
Charles’ furthered the ship money taxes in 1635 by not only demanding them for coastal countries but the whole of Britain, this was bound to raise resentment towards the King’s actions however it was an effective move by Charles as by 1637 the budget was balanced, most of the gains were developed via new strategies however most of them were just previous laws that were buried and brought back, the only new law was Ship Money due to its amendment but it also played a significant part in establishing a new style of taxation, targets for Ship Money were set and the global sum had been deducted from the county as a whole.
Apart from rising customs revenues that had been derived from growing trade, Ship money then became a long-term source of financial independence. Upon Ship Money being offered on a long-term basis the resentment and opposition towards the way Charles’ had chosen to finance his government, the opposition wasn’t towards the finance but the methods chosen and mainly the Ship Money itself, many historians argue that the period of portraying Ship Money on a long-term basis was an attempt by Charles to finance his absolutism but the opposition towards Charles’ actions had been at a growing rate.
At this point it may be considered that I far from agree with the opinion of Charles being able to finance his government without too much resentment as opposition against the Kings actions had been at a growing rate and with Ship Money falling out of context the power to impose taxes had been taken out of context. Whig historians had believed that this period had aroused the most furious opposition in the provinces and this “fact” was generally accepted.
However there is little evidence to suggest that the opposition was high. John Hampden was a clear case of resentment for the King as he refused to pay the tax in 1636; he was then tested in 1637. At this point Hampden’s lawyer believed Parliament should vote in this case, however the King appealed against this by saying that the Ship tax was also used to build the army
Even though the judges had confirmed Charles’ legal right to collect Ship Money, resentment and dissatisfaction were growing and in the years of 1635-1637 the amount of ship money being received was at a decreasing rate which was most likely from the opposition of it, this also highlights the fact that opposition was at an increasing rate and Charles’ unethical methods would not be successful for long.
Charles’ methods of granting tax without the consent of Parliament had showed that his unethical methods towards gaining revenue would most likely increase the opposition towards him. Although most taxes were accepted Ship Money had been a major issue that raised a high amount in opposition. It can be argued that Ship Money was required for a valid reason, but would it be sustained as long as Charles wanted it? The period of 1637-40 was the decline of the personal rule, public opinion of the King was negating.
Although the combination of Ship Money and growing trade offered a source of financial independence, the opposition towards it didn’t. Most of the opposition believed a Parliament should be called but even if it were to be, Charles’ views towards the finances of his government would not change hence one of the main reasons for the Personal Rule period itself. Charles lacked political awareness, and unlike James I, his father he lacked understanding of Scottish politics and culture; even so he didn’t attempt to educate himself on it.
To some extent I have concluded that Charles’ ability to finance his government effectively itself was remarkable, but the methods he adapted when doing so were unethical and did not take into consideration the public opinion therefore I wouldn’t regard it as a remarkable achievement, however many Historians believe as I do that Charles’ lack of politics and culture had put him at a great disadvantage which was mainly why Parliament were established.
It may also be said that Charles’ view towards Parliament had changed majorly after the death of the Duke, this was the reason why he demanded reform and asserted his role. The situation in Scotland was also a major turning point for the Personal Rule as Charles’ advisors also began advising that he call Parliament in order to settle the opposition and avoid war which in fact did drain the finances of the government.
Therefore to some extent I do agree that the opinion of Charles’ ability to finance his government effectively was a remarkable achievement, however I also think that he should have taken more consideration of the public opinion in an attempt to avoid resentment. His decision to “renew” the Ship Money tax was in my opinion a mistake made by Charles and the decision to do this had actually started a widespread of opposition.
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