17th Century England: Relationship between Crown and Parliament



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Europe in general and England, in particular, was subject to a turbulent history during the 1600s (Malcom, 1999). The early 17th century was a period of conflict, despite England and Scotland, having the same monarch for the first time in history. This period was marked by the poor management of parliament, and significant shortfalls in the manner in which James I ruled the land. The parliament was powerful enough to manage in limiting the power of the monarchy (Malcom, 1999). The only saving grace was the parliament of 1624; wherein both James I and his subjects were in agreement about waging war on Spain. I believe that James I of England was ahead of his times in many ways and exhibited stellar intelligence. However, he was weak in the implementation of many of his ideas and was the cause of conflict with the parliament of the time (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2016).

Reign of James I (1603-1625)

James I of England and Ireland, also known as James VI of Scotland did hold the distinction of having united Scotland, Ireland, and Britain under his rule (Institute of Historical Research, 2016). While this was a first, and he is famously known as the First Monarch of Great Britain due to this distinguished achievement (BBC, 2014); the king was unable to command his subjects on several matters (Lambert, 2016). The weakness in his method of ruling was evident in the stiff opposition he faced from the Parliament on several matters like the Great Contract, purchase of household goods below-market rate for the royal family, and so on (Institute of Historical Research, 2016). These measures drew the ire of his subjects and he faced stiff opposition from the parliament.

Despite these differences, both the English and Scottish governments were quite stable during his reign, albeit only superficially (Institute of Historical Research, 2016). His foreign policies focused on closer relationships with Spain. Towards this end, he also contemplated the marriage of his son with the Infanta. These decisions found much dissent among the parliament since they viewed the Catholic country as an enemy state (Malcom, 1999). The King vacillated between his protestant upbringing and the Catholic beliefs ingrained from his mother resulting in much confusion in ideology (Team Royal Family History, 2016). He was not averse to the shedding of familial blood to assure that his ideology was enforced. This included the killing of his own Catholic mother to which he was a silent witness so as to assure himself the throne of England (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2016), or the refusal to help his protestant Son-in-Law to cement his growing relationship with the Catholics (Kent University, 2016). The fag end of his reign was marked by their unanimous decision to attack Spain in 1621 and complete support to the crown (Institute of Historical Research, 2016).

England during 1604-1702

The harmony between the crown and parliament during 1604-1702 was fragile at best and non-existent at worst. James I and the parliament during his reign were constantly at loggerheads over various issues. James, I believed in the divine right of his crown and in asserting his supreme authority. He was known to be harsh on both Catholics and Puritans; suppressing both while asserting his authority. While history documents his ‘stable’ rule; the truth remains much darker. James I was known to compromise politically while advocating an absolute demeanor in his rulings (Institute of Historical Research, 2016).

The relationship between the crown and parliament faced steady erosion primarily due to the extravagant expenditure by the King, royal family, and favorite courtiers; inflation and confusing foreign policy. The rewards lavished on favorites and huge spending on decorations also contributed significantly to the discontent. While his reign is considered a complete failure by many; the actual effects of most of his actions were considerably long-term, becoming fully obvious only after his death (BBC, 2014).  The turbulent legacy of James I resulted in the execution of his son and successor Charles I (Institute of Historical Research, 2016)


The love-hate relationship between the crown and parliament was seen in the long duel between the two during the reign of James I of England. While the king tried to browbeat them into accepting his many whims and fancies; the parliament was able to defend itself and keep the monarchy in check, much to the chagrin of James I (BBC, 2014). Most of his actions left his subjects highly unhappy and defiant, which finally proved to be the leading source of conflict between the crown and parliament that continued even after his death and culminated in the execution of his successor Chares I.


BBC. (2014). James I and VI (1566-1625). Retrieved Nov 23, 2016, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/history: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/james_i_vi.shtml

Encyclopedia Britannica. (2016). James I King of England and Scotland. Retrieved Nov 23, 2016, from https://www.britannica.com: https://www.britannica.com/biography/James-I-king-of-England-and-Scotland

Institute of Historical Research. (2016). Parliaments, 1604-1629: The reigns of James I and Charles I. Retrieved Nov 25, 2016, from The History of Paliament: http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/research/parliaments/parliaments-1604-1629

Kent University. (2016). Religion and Society in Seventeenth-Century England . Retrieved Nov 2016, 26, from https://www.kent.ac.uk: https://www.kent.ac.uk/courses/modules/module/HI874

Lambert, T. (2016). A HISTORY OF 17TH CENTURY ENGLAND. Retrieved Nov 2016, 26, from http://www.localhistories.org: http://www.localhistories.org/17thcent.html

Malcom, J. L. (1999). The Struggle for Sovereignty: Seventeenth-Century English Political Tracts- Vol 1. America: Liberty Fund Inc.

Team Royal Family History. (2016). King James I (1603 – 1625). Retrieved Nov 25, 2016, from http://www.britroyals.com: http://www.britroyals.com/kings.asp?id=james1

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