The years 1640 to 1650 were a decade of uncertainty for most of Europe. Many groups revolted in an attempt to restore regional autonomies that had been taken over by a strong central government. Only in England, however,
did the revolt turn into a major revolution. Changes slowly permeated England’s central government towards the end of the Tudor dynasty. The gentry class, a land owning social group immediately below the nobles, began gaining momentum. By the time of Elizabeth’s death, the gentry class controlled most of the economic aspect of the country and Parliament. The political changes and the economical changes caused by the gentry combined with the change of dynasties caused conflicts within England. The lack of harmony between the Parliament and the Monarchy eventually evolved into a civil war called the English Revolution. The three overriding causes of the English revolution were financial burdens, Political dilemmas, and religious incongruities.
Financial burdens of the monarchs were probably the most predominate factor that contributed to the English revolution. With Elizabeth’s death came the end of the Tudor dynasty, and the new king James I was too bombastic to Parliament’s liking, especially those people of the House of Commons. During the last twenty years of Elizabeth’s reign, her resources had been overtaxed by war with Spain and an economic depression; when she died, Elizabeth I left the throne and a 400,000-pound debt to James I of Scotland. 400,000-pounds was equivalent to a year worth of royal revenues. The House of Commons was a decisive force in passing laws regarding taxes; they resented the king and opposed him in everyway possible. The uncooperative attitude of the Parliament caused James to act against the Parliament’s wishes and laid the foundation of the civil war. The financial problems worsened when the Scots entered England. The inflation of war prices due to changes in war crafts, and the difficulty to earn money forced the king to bargain with the Parliament. However, the negotiations always failed and ended with the king dissolving the Parliament angrily.
Political dilemmas were another overriding conflict that contributed to the English revolution. Unlike Elizabeth I, James I viewed his power as unlimited and absolute. When Elizabeth died in 1603, the gentry class was slowly becoming more decisive and important in the House of Commons. The gentry expressed their views of public matters through the House of Commons and eventually posed a serious threat to the monarchy. James I denied some of the authorities of the House of Commons, the gentry responded by openly opposing royal policies and engaged in a running battle with the king. For example, Parliament blocked the union of England and Scotland, and they also drew up an “Apology” outlining the ignorance of James I. The Parliament convinced James to pass an unprecedented right for parliament to discuss foreign policy. To please the Parliament, Charles I agreed on the Petition of Right. The Petition of Right demanded an end to imprisonment without the consent of Parliament, to martial law in peacetime, and to the billeting of troops among civilians. These demands made the Parliament more powerful than Charles had planned. He betrayed his words and started a feud with Parliament. Without Parliament, the king was unable to charge efficient taxes and pass enforceable laws. The last attempt to compromise between the King and the Parliament took place in early 1640. However Charles refused to change his policies, and the Commons refused to grant a subsidy. Therefore, the Parliament and the Monarch remained at a stalemate and the problems were never solved. Another point of view regarding the diversities of James I, and Charles I to Parliament was that the Parliament idealized James and Charles as Kings of a single nation state of England. But in reality, these kings had stronger ties in Scotland and ventured to find a way to govern Britain as king of England. Monarchs found this was something they could not do, not even in the present days.
Religion also served as a catalyst of the English Revolution. Even though none of the overriding factors that caused the war seem to be religious, the leaders of the revolts were all Puritan radicals. The Puritans thought that the Anglican Church established by Elizabeth I was still too close to Catholicism. They felt that the Anglican Church should be replaced by a congregational system in which each local congregation would decide its own form of worship or establish a strictly organized Calvinist system. Oliver Cromwell devoted his time to religious freedom and a constitutional government. Puritans were not a majority of the population that were influential, however, they were very persuasive and courageous. Just like the Puritans, even though religion incongruity was not the overriding factor in starting the English revolution, it contributed greatly in igniting the feuds.
“A revolution is an attempt to overturn the social and political system and create a new structure of society.” stated The Western Experience. The English revolution of 1640 was a futile attempt to overturn a well-established monarchy. The forces (political, economical, and religious) that drove England into the revolution cannot act alone. It took the unity of all three to ignite the civil war. Another Monarchy was established under Charles II a few years after the end of the revolution, and most of the religious and political aspects that the rebels fought for reverted back to that before the revolution. However, the political relations had changed for good; Habeas Corpus laid a strong foundation for future constitutional developments and Parliament’s powers were no longer challenged.