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Parliament in English politics

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During the 16th and 17th centuries, many European nations grew into the mold of absolutism. Starting with the role of James I, England underwent absolutist reforms as Parliament was often suppressed by the ruling monarch until the Glorious Revolution, when the supremacy of Parliament was established.

James I was an absolutist ruler who emphasized the divine right of kings and sought to restrain Parliament under his will. Consequently, conflicts were inevitable as James I, and ensuing rulers, often found himself deficient of funds, and Parliament served as the gateway to the money. James I and his successor Charles I called Parliamentary meetings solely to ascertain the issue of funds. During this period, Parliament was rarely called upon and after these debates for money, Charles I and James I completely dissolved the Parliament. I did so because he agreed to admit the illegality of his taxes in turn for funding from Parliament. Afterwards, he abolished the Parliament to pursue his own endeavors.

Furthermore, during Charles tenure, the English Civil War took place as a result from the lack of amity between Charles and Parliament. The Scottish invaded England, but Parliament refused to allow Charles to raise an army, because they feared he would abuse his powers and assail English citizens who opposed him. Charles I was eventually defeated and executed by Oliver Cromwell. Following the inadequacy of Cromwell, Charles II rose to power and was keyed the “merry monarch” for his easy-going nature. He imposed the Cabal system, a group of five individuals who handled the political issues of England; the term Cabal stems from the initials of each official member. This system acted as a type of Parliament in its methods of governing. During this period as a whole, it is evident that Parliament often conflicted with the ideals of the ruling monarch.

Following Charles II’s death, his brother James II ascended the throne. As another absolutist, James II was a ruthless ruler who attempted to propel England back to Catholicism. This drew the ire of the English masses, and Parliament was unable to impede James’ ventures. Thus, William of Orange invaded England but garnered the support of the English subjects and compelled James II to abdicate his throne. In the aftermath, William and Mary of Orange became rulers of England, indicating the supremacy of Parliament, as Mary, the Protestant daughter of James II from his first marriage, served the purposes of P

arliament. The English Bill of Rights was established along with the groundwork for English constitutionalism; this Bill of rights weakened the power of royalty and subsequently fortified the power of the Parliament. Among the laws outlined by the Bill were that the king could not attack Parliament members and members could not be punished for statements made during debates. Following the Glorious Revolution and William’s uprising, the cabinet system was introduced, which selected a member from Parliament to be Prime Minister; Robert Walpole was then recognized as the first one.

As France and the eastern European nations inclined towards absolutism, England drifted towards constitutionalism, emphasizing a strong Parliamentary influence upon the state.


“History of Europe.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2010. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 18 Jan. 2010 .

Hooker, Richard. “Absolutism.” The European Enlightenment Glossary Ed. Richard Hooker. N.p., 14 July 1999. Web. 10 Jan. 2010. .

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