Constitutional Monarchy In England

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Constitutional Monarchy in England

Constitutional Monarchy in England


In the thirteenth century, King John was a forceful and often unfair ruler of England. He punished citizens with no trial and made them pay heavy amounts of taxes. Finally, a group of nobles got together and forced John to sing the Magna Carta. The Magna Carta was a collection on documents that limited the rule of royalty in England; it guaranteed rights to all English people. The tradition of the Magna Carta carried on for centuries through Queen Elizabeth's reign, up until the Stuart family took up the thrown (Maney, 1988 392). In the 17th century, England developed into a limited monarchy.


Queen Elizabeth was the last successful monarch to rule alongside the English Parliament. Elizabeth had a lot of control over England and was generally a good ruler, yet she was not an absolute monarch. Elizabeth worked well with Parliament and allowed them to be involved in her reign. When Elizabeth died, Parliament was determined to gain more power over the government. When James I, king of Scotland, took up the thrown, Parliament's determination and James's beliefs clashed to cause problems in the governing of England.

James was a firm believer in divine right. This meant that a monarch's power to rule came directly from God, and that therefore was absolute. He wished to have unyielding control of England, only going to Parliament when he needed money to fight a war, or to just to fund his excessive life-style (Macmillan, 1990 ill). This irritated Parliament and was their basis for the resentment of James I. Parliament eventually began denying finances to James, and after a while he dissolved them and enforced his own taxes.

Supporting absolutist policies was Thomas Hobbes's book, Leviathan. Along with the Stuart monarchs, Hobbes was a believer in absolute monarchy as the top way to govern. Hobbes wrote of a life in a state without government control, he described that it would be "nasty, brutish, and short." He believed that people should form contracts, giving themselves up to their present monarch. By suspending their freedom, the monarch would be able to protect them and keep the land in a state of order. Hobbes believed that no matter how much people disliked their government, they had no right to go against it. Hobbes believed that the only way to maintain an orderly state was by the way of absolute ruling.

To add to problems with government in England, was its religious state. Most English people were members of the Church of England, yet that had different beliefs about the doctrine and rituals of the church. The Puritans were a group belonging to the church who wanted the church to be rid ("purified") of its remaining Catholic practices. James I, who was head of both the government and the church, believed that anyone going against the Church of England in any way was disloyal to their religion. If these Puritans didn't conform to the church, James stated, and then they would be kicked out of ...
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