Charles I of England, Scotland and Ireland has been called England’s
most ill-fated monarch.
On March 10, 1629, he dissolved Parliament and had several members
imprisoned, beginning the 11-year period known as the Personal Rule.
This set into motion the events that led to the English Civil War and
the death of Charles I in 1649.
Also known as the Eleven Years’ Tyranny, the period from 1629 to
1640 saw King Charles I rule without Parliament. The king was entitled
to do this under the Royal Prerogative. His actions caused discontent
among the ruling classes, but the effects were generally more popular
with the common people.
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Taxation was a major concern during his reign, and early in his
reign he expanded the ship tax across the country (reasoning that the
whole nation was being defended, not just the port cities). This move
proved somewhat unpopular.
However, only Parliament could raise taxes outside of the king’s
prerogative, so during Personal Rule, without Parliament enacting its
taxes, the tax burden was relatively low. With the Thirty Years’ War
raging across Europe, England was relatively prosperous during the 1630s.
Personal Rule came to an end after an unsuccessful effort to reform
the then-Episcopal Church of Scotland to bring it and its liturgy into
line with the Church of England. An invasion of Scottish forces in
1640 forced the king to call for the Short Parliament, which convened
for a few days, before another Parliament was instituted.
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Demanding many changes, this Parliament prompted Charles I to leave
London two years later, marking the beginning of the English Civil War.