On March 10, 1629 Charles I decided he’d had quite enough of this whole “Parliament” thing and dissolved it, beginning an 11-year period known politely as the Personal Rule and less politely as the Eleven Years’ Tyranny. It did not end well for him.

Charles’s father, James, was something of a spendthrift during his reign and found himself frequently begging Parliament for money—a fact Parliament used to its advantage, forcing him to accept certain policies in return for a payout. When James succeeded, he started an expensive and useless war against Spain, which just pissed Parliament off. MPs complained about the war’s mismanagement by Charles’s favorite, the Duke of Buckingham, and other policies rubbed them the wrong way. Charles was too stubborn to compromise and finally just dissolved Parliament so he could do whatever he liked. For the next decade, Charles ruled with only an advisory council appointed by himself.

With a pricy war to still pay for (even though it had ended) and no Parliament to authorize general taxes, Charles soon found himself short on funds again, and he and his council got really creative about raising them. They taxed inland counties to fund the navy, fined gentlemen who hadn’t attended Charles’s coronation, fined people for not attending church, and sold government offices and monopolies. To Charles’s credit, he learned to spend a bit less and kept England out of the 30 Years’ War raging on the continent, which meant England had a fairly prosperous decade throughout the 1630’s. Because of this, common people thought the personal rule was just fine.

But then Charles and one of his advisors, Archbishop Laud, started to meddle in the Presbyterian Church in Scotland, trying to bring it more in line with the Anglican Church, and that didn’t go over so well at all in Scotland. In fact, a Scottish army ended up invading and Charels couldn’t afford to pay English troops to fight him. He was forced to call the Short Parliament in 1640, thus ending Personal Rule. The Short Parliament lasted only a few days, but the Scots stuck around in England, so Charles had to call the Long Parliament, which would last straight through the Civil War and the Interregnum in 1660. The Parliamentary leaders kept demanding more and more concessions from Charles, until by 1642 he left London to raise an army to regain control of his country, kicking off the English Civil War.

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2 thoughts on “The Eleven Years’ Tyranny

  1. It’s interesting that Charles knew enough to stay out of the Thirty Years’ War, but tried to introduce in Scotland something much like the English Book of Common Prayer. It’s especially ironic given he’d been born in Scotland and, one would have thought, should have known something about the Scots’ independent streak,

    I suppose when you feel that you’ve been divinely ordained to rule, you also feel you can’t make a bad decision. History, in Charles’ case, proved otherwise.

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