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Changes in the Relationship between Monarchy and Parliament from 1529 to 1640

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There is no doubt that between 1529 and 1640 the relationship between monarch and Parliament changed greatly. During the period Parliament changed from being a non-independent institution of “yes men” used as a servant in Henry VIII’s reign, to opposition to monarchy in Charles’s reign. The catalysts to this “monumental change in relationship”-Morris 2000, over 121 years was due to several interlinking factors with more emphasis given on a few. Each factor has separate effects and must be analysed accordingly. The relationship between Parliament and Monarch was destroyed due to finance in Charles’ reign.

It is my view that during Charles’ reign, finance was the main agitating factor that caused conflict in this relationship and ultimately brought the relationship to an end. What had worsened the situation also was Charles’s insistence of collecting “illegal taxes” such as the ship tax during peacetime. This highlights change in relationship as it contrasts with previous early Tudor monarchs that had little trouble gaining finance from Parliament. Throughout the period, parliamentary business has been occupied by the debate of the future of the church, and it was clearly the most important factor in the changing relationship.

During Henry’s reign this was apparent. A “Great Matter” had created a problem for Henry, which brought the future of the church into dispute. It is clear this had occurred as a result of Henrys personality and ego as he pursued his aims with “great diligence”-Smith (1997). Therefore it could be said that Henrys Ego and Personality strengthened the relationship between Crown and Parliament by achieving the ultimate aim of a Change of Church that allowed his divorce. His aims were to gain a divorce from Catherine of Aragon who could not grant Henry another baby so he wished to marry Ann Boleyn who he thought could.

However Pope Clementine was not in a position to grant this divorce and continued to reject Henrys requests. It was apparent to Henry after this that the only way he could gain his divorce was to break with Rome and create a new Church in England, which Henry would be the “Supreme Head” of. He would then be in a position to gain a divorce. The issue of debate therefore was over the Future of the Church. To achieve his aims Henry used the “Reformation Parliaments” which sat between 1529 and 1536 played an essential role in changing the future of the church. This Parliament triggered the first relationship changes.

In order to legitimise this in now recognised “supreme and omnicompetent law”-Act of Supremacy, statute was drawn in Parliament. “Parliamentary legislation was first to curtail and eventually extinguish Papal right in England”-Smith (1997). It is recognised by historians that Henry used Parliament as a tool, however there was great compromise on the mater as only one MP opposed the act of Supremacy of 1533. Henry VIII enjoyed a “close working relationship”-Graves (1990) with his Reformation Parliament, enforcing the great Acts which broke the link with Rome.

King and Parliament worked closely together to remove Papal power and increase both of theirs. This collaboration affected a successful transfer of power and funds from the Church to the Monarchy. “Parliament acting in the 1530’s destroyed all customary links on statute”- M Graves 1990. The Reformation Parliament created a feeling that religious affairs could be discussed and that the king required Parliament for its statute. This enhanced Parliamentary expectation as an institution of power. Such cooperation and lack of division were never to be seen again between the two institutions in the period under consideration.

During Edward’s reign a “Protestant Reformation” took place where Edward aided by his protectors, steered his father’s ecclesiastical work to a definite Protestant form. However the relationship between Monarchy and Parliament was not as strong in this reign, as Edward’s protectors resorted to proclamation rather then Parliament. However Somerset guided through the radical Act of Uniformity and the new Prayer Book of 1549. Parliament, it can be argued started to develop from an “approval body”-Smith 1997 into a substantial institution of opposition being able to oppose even the highest matters of state such as Mary’s marriage.

Change to the future of the church can be suggested to be apparent during Mary’s reign. This opposition came mainly from the lower house “which took strong exception to many of her religious policies”-Tittler (1985). On one occasion it hosted a rebellion of 80 MP’s lasting for five days when Mary who possessed hard line religious policies and an equally harsh personality tried to determine the future of the church by revoking religious laws of Henry and Edward. The House of Commons during the reign effectively curtailed the potential extent of Philips participation in English affairs, and also prevented his coronation in 1555.

They also rejected the crowns proposal to bar Elizabeth from the succession. From this we can see a key change in the relationship between Parliament and Monarchy. However Tittler 1985 argues that Parliament “suggested a genuine spirit of compromise and co-operation” both can be seen as a change in relationship between the two institutions. Historians argue that Elizabeth’s reign proved to be a turning point where different factors begun to influence the relationship. Change of the Church ceased to be the underlying factor, and became interlinked with, others mainly foreign policy and finance.

However the future of the church was a contentious factor disputed within Elizabeth’s reign. Elizabeth attempted to introduce the Religious Settlement of 1558, which would reverse Mary’s extreme Catholic statute and create toleration in the Church. However the bill was contested by Parliament. There has been fierce debate in the academic world on what caused this. Neale-(1964) a classed as a Whig historian understood that this as opposition from a group of forty Puritans in the Lower House who wished for a more extreme settlement against Catholics.

However Elton-(1984) a revisionist argues that the Puritan Choir did in fact not exist, and that the main opposition came from Catholics within the Upper House. Elizabeth with the aide of Cecil decided to introduce a Protestant Prayer Book as a compromise with the faction in Parliament. This evidence would suggest that Parliament was advancing its power within the relationship, and that this “partner in government”-Lockyer-(1973) must be approached before legislation could pass. It would also appear that this was derived from the issue of the future of the church.

Elizabeth was able to achieve much and change the future of the church by possessing a personality of a Parliamentary manipulator and co-operator. “She was successful in managing her Parliaments. “-Graves (1988) It can be suggested however that religion did not play the most important part in James’s reign and other factors should be focussed on such as personality and foreign policy. As Lockyer-(1973) suggests “James’s reign was most contentious over non ecclesiastical affairs”.

It was Charles’s obvious leaning towards Arminianism, stubborn personality and disastrous foreign policy that created the greatest change in relationship between King and Parliament over the whole period of study. This concern over the future of the church was a fundamental point of contention between Parliament and Monarchy during his reign. However it could be seen that this was derived from his character as he is described as “the most stubborn monarch since Richard the Lion heart”-Smith (1997). This stubbornness he successfully used to subject Arminianism upon the Church was a major part of the dispute.

The Lower House rebelled against this concern over the future of the church by holding down the kings speaker in Parliament during 1629 to allow three resolutions to pass some of which attacked Arminianism. Charles reacted to this by dissolving Parliament, and began his “Personal Rule” lasting eleven years . This personal rule broke communication with Parliament. This Division had much to do with concern over the future of the Church by MP’s as Charles had been displaying tendencies towards popery.

Archbishop Laud a staunch Arminianist appointed by Charles created much disruption as Protestants resented him for introducing Arminianist policies. Much of resentment held by Parliament that culminated in the 1629 Parliament against Charles was caused by his foreign policy. Parliament was in uproar that the subsidies it granted were being used in failed conflicts. There were costly military disaster at Dessau-1625, Cadiz, The Rhe, La Rochelle and Scotland. Charles was at war with two super powers France, and Spain, which Parliament had always seeked to avoid.

The 1628 Parliament was critical of all these disasters and lobbied for the removal of Buckingham Despite this, it does not appear that the divisions caused by the future of the Church were the only reason for the compromise or, often conflict between Parliament and the Monarchy. It is my thesis that finance is a factor, which also created as much change in the Relationship as the Future of the Church especially during the reigns of James and Charles. During Henry’s reign Morris-(2000) argues “The 1540’s eroded the crowns resources and made it more dependent on Parliamentary revenues”.

This suggests that firstly due to foreign policy Henry had to approach Parliament as he was in financial need Therefore Parliament was assembled more regularly and advanced Parliamentary expectation. However this financial compromise soon shifted, as it did in religion, with Elizabeth coming to the throne. Grievances arose over the Queens granting of monopolies and, according to Neale-(1964) there was “general dissatisfaction” over her financial demands, which motivated an argument where Parliament stated its right to initiate votes for any finance.

After much deliberation the Queen withdrew licences for monopolies. Further agitation also rose after Elizabeth’s request for subsidies in peacetime. This dissatisfaction and opposition shows Parliament was increasingly reluctant to grant funds compared to Parliaments of early Tudor reigns. They increasingly demanded grievances to be redressed first. Therefore Parliament could be seen to gaining power and becoming an equal partner of government. A division in the relationship could be suggested as a consequence of foreign policy.

Although it is perceived Elizabeth “disliked wars”-(Graves 2000) she was embroiled with a war against Spain yet Parliament supported her. However this was “a very costly affair”-M A Graves-1990. Although it is my view that the division was drawn along the lines of finance, and the issues of the queens prerogatives as there was very little opposition with the war, which many saw as necessary. The increasing resistance to the Monarch’s demand for money can be seen in the reign of James. James’s personality was suggested to be by contemporary sources as “extravagant and non frugal”-Morris (2000).

James also angered several of his Parliaments by his preaching of Divine Right to gain power and authority. This was not helped as by this time the metaphorical “purse strings” had begun tightening as Elizabeth had left a considerable Royal debt of i?? 200 000. Parliament recognised this and was very critical of the Kings extravagance. Parliament would never have imagined being critical in such a way in Henrys reign therefore it could be suggested Parliament had become much more critical and tried to keep the Monarch to account.

The criticism extended into the field of Foreign policy in James’s reign as in 1607 James proposed a plan for unification of England and Scotland, which was met with fierce opposition in the Lower House, much like today’s dispute in unifying Europe. This act was never to be thanks to Parliaments newfound staunch opposition power. James’s peace policy sparked great tension. James did not wish to become embroiled in religious wars on the continent, while Parliament wished him to. However James had his way therefore Parliaments power was not substantial enough to dissuade him.

England was experiencing a “financial revolution”-Smith-(1997) where wealth was transferred to merchants. The economic balance was shifted from the landed elite, feudalism was breaking down. This gave wealth to a new class, which could afford extensive education. To protect their interest they sought a seat in the recognised prestigious Parliament by Elizabeth’s reign. The Commons gained 62 members in Elizabeth’s reign. With this highly educated and experienced group of a “new breed of MP’s “-Graves- (1988).

Parliament suggested by Graves could mobilise an effective opposition therefore enhancing their political power. It would appear that the two main factors, a division over the future of the church, and finance interconnected and exacerbated the change in relationship the most and proved to be the two most influential and causal factors. However at the same time several factors such as personalities of the Monarch and privy councillors as well as foreign policy were underlying factors in the background, culminating and adding to the conflict or often compromise throughout the period of study.

Although the relationships were varied from reign to reign and it is important not to generalise on the issues of factors. On some occasions a factor had more precedence then in another reign such as foreign policy in Henrys and Charles’s reign. Throughout the early Tudor reigns it appears you could argue that the future of the church caused the greatest change in relationship between Crown and Parliament, due mainly to the Reformation, then the Changes that Edward and Mary made which caused much compromise and increased Parliamentary expectation.

However later on in the period this argument does not stand against the substantial evidence that other factors such as Finance and Foreign policy caused a great break down in the relationship in cases such as Charles’s disastrous economic and foreign policy which had precedence over Religion. The rise of the Gentry must also be recognised as this created greater opposition towards the Monarch. I believe all these factors increased Parliamentary expectation, realising that they could govern aside the Monarch or even oppose the Monarch that caused the greatest changes in relationship between Crown and Monarch, 1529-1640.

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