Course Content
Environmental Studies
English Language and Linguistics
Private: BA English
About Lesson

Learning Outcomes

After the successful completion of this unit, the learner would be able to:

  •  understand the nature and method of working of the Commonwealth in England in the 16th century.
  • discern the background of English civil wars.
  • evaluate the inherent weaknesses of the Commonwealth government. f point out the causes for the glorious revolution.

Discussion
The attempts of the Stuart rulers to rule the country and side-linethe parliament were the main cause of the English civil wars. However, the feud between the Catholics and the Protestants, a feature of the Tudor period, continued in a different form during the Stuart period. James I had embraced Protestantism publicly and was instrumental in bringing out an authorised Version of the Bible (also known as James’s Bible) in 1611. But the Puritans who controlled the Parliament suspected him to be a sympathiser of the Catholics as his mother was a Catholic. Puritans and non- Puritan Protestants were united by adherence to a broad Calvinist theology of grace during the regime of Elizabeth I and James I. This consensus, however, broke down under Charles I, who supported some sections of Protestants who were bitterly opposed to Puritanism. His wife, Queen Henrietta Maria, from France, openly practised Catholicism and this alienated many people.

Fig 6.2.1 Charles I in three positions
The Civil War was fought between the supporters of the monarchy under Charles I and the Puritans who controlled the Parliament. After the death of Charles I, the royalist side was led by his son Charles II. The Civil War began with the formation of an army by Charles I to deal with the Irish rebellion against the wishes of the Parliament. However, the seeds were sown earlier during the Bishop’s War (fought between Charles I and the Scots in 1639) in Scotland and with the Ulster Rebellion in Ireland in 1641. The Civil War was fought between the supporters of the King and the Parliament in England, but they also struck Scotland and Ireland. Thus, it was called the British Civil war or the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. It ended with the execution of Charles I and the flight of Charles II to France, and England was declared a Common wealth.

6.2.1 Oliver Cromwell and the Commonwealth
The execution of the king invited hostilities from all over Europe. In spite of that, England was declared a Commonwealth by the Rump Parliament (the Long Parliament after the expulsion of the 121 members) in 1648. The monarchy and House of Lords stood abolished. In this system, the power of the government was vested with a Council of the State, the Rump Parliament and the army. The military became a part of the English government. Due to his military success, Oliver Cromwell had become the undisputed leader of the Parliamentarians. He dealt with the revolted royalists in Ireland and Scotland and gained a reputation as a good administrator and diplomat. His victories over the Irish, the Scots and the Dutch brought a great reputation to the Commonwealth government.
The Rump parliament went on with the conservative laws without adopting any reforms in the legal system. The attempt to abolish the Court of Chancery, one of the branches of the High Court, created much opposition from the central courts. As it failed to adopt popular reforms, the Rump parliament was dissolved by Cromwell in 1652. The new Parliament nominated by the assembly could not do anything better. Therefore, it dissolved itself, and the power returned to Cromwell.
Oliver Cromwell assumed the title Lord Protector in December 1653 and ruled like a dictator till his death on September 3, 1658. A pragmatic section of the population, including the lawyers, office holders and magistrates, desired to establish a heaven on earth. The Republicans wanted to shape the government after the model of Ancient Rome. The social reformers wanted the land to be returned to the common people. There were also some social radicals known as Quakers who had their vision of the new government

Fig 6.2.2 Oliver Chromwell
The first constitution of England, namely the Instrument of Government, was created in 1653 by John Lambert. The instrument created a protector, a council of the States, and a Parliament elected at least once in every three years. Cromwell was made the Protector, and there was a council to assist him in administration. The Protectorate was able to solve many central questions, including legal reforms and religious reforms. It brought out social legislation to cleanse society from drinking and swearing. For public entertainment, stage plays were introduced. However, there were disputes between the government and the protector, too. The government could only be shouldered by Cromwell for a long time. For a time, the people wished him to be the king, but he declined. As Lord Protector, he enjoyed more power than was enjoyed by many English kings.
In 1658, after the death of Oliver Cromwell, his son Richard Cromwell was raised to his father’s position. But he proved to be a failure and had to quit. A rebellion of junior officers led to the re-establishment of the Rump Parliament. However, there was still confusion at the administrative level and in the army. George Monck, from Scotland, was one of the ablest senior officers of the period. He understood the weakness of the Rump and realised that the existing chaos could be solved only by reinstalling Charles II to the throne. Thus, he prepared the ground for the return of Charles II to England, resulting in Restoration rule.

Fig 6.2.3 John Lambert
6.2.2 The Restoration
In English history, the term Restoration is used to denote the restoration of monarchy by placing Charles II on the throne of England, ending the rule of the Commonwealth under Richard Cromwell. Strict Anglican orthodoxy came back to the parliament. The period also includes the reign of James II, too. The restoration period witnessed an unprecedented expansion of trade and a revival of drama and literature.
6.2.2.1 Charles II (1630-1685)
Charles II, the son of Charles I, who had gone into exile in 1651, was proclaimed as king and returned to England in May 1660. His coronation took place in 1661. The event of his return to power is called the Restoration of the monarchy in English history. Puritanism ceased to be a force after the Restoration. The Restoration settlement re-established the domination of the Anglican church.

Fig 6.2.4 Charles II
Although he married Princess Catherine of Portugal in 1662, Charles failed to have children. Charles ruled the country with the consent of the Parliament till his death in 1685 AD. He converted to Catholicism on his deathbed.
6.2.2.2 James II (1633-1701)
James II, brother of Charles II, succeeded him to the English throne. It was a period when the relationship between the Catholics and the Protestants was strained in England. James joined the Catholic church in 1668 but attended Anglican services until 1676. In 1677, he consented to the marriage of his elder daughter Mary to the Protestant William of Orange. The reign of James II was also marked by friction between the Crown and the Parliament. He also took some pro-Catholic measures and dissolved the parliament against the Triennial Act. The Parliament tolerated him because he did not have a male heir to succeed him. However, the entire situation changed with the birth of a son to James II in his old age. This made the parliament apprehensive about an impending Catholic rule in England. Thus, seven major Parliament members declared their allegiance to William of Orange. The advent of William’s army in 1688 prompted James II to flee England. The crown was offered jointly to William and Mary. The transfer of power was thus peaceful. This event became famous as the Glorious Revolution (Bloodless Revolution) in world history.

Fig 6.2.5 James II