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How Religion Influenced The British Government History Essay

During 1625 and 1702, the British government was highly influenced by the religious movements presented in England during that time. These movements were represented by three main religious groups: The Protestants, Anglicans or the Church of England; the Roman Catholics and the Puritans. The Church of England was established by Henry VIII in 1553 because of his interest of being the head of the Church of England. On the other side, the Roman Catholic Church was the most important religion guided by a Pope from Rome. Finally, the Puritans, the Presbyterians and the Dissenters were a group of people against the Reformation of the Church of England because they believed that there were no differences between the Catholic and the Protestant Church.

In this essay I will discuss how these religions influenced the British government and how they helped to the development of new strategies and forms of ruling the country. The first point to be discussed is the Divine Right of King in which the king had a similar power of God and everything he made is ordered by God. The second one is the relationship given between the king and the parliament and how the Puritans contributed to the formation of a new one: The House of Common. The third point is the creation of a Republic or the Commonwealth after a Civil War commanded by Oliver Cromwell. The fourth point is the Restoration period in which the monarchy takes the government again and the rules of the country are given by the king. And finally, I will discuss the Glorious Revolution of 1689 in which the rights of the parliament are considered by the monarchy, so they will be part in ruling the country.

During 1629, under the reign of Charles I, a new way of ruling the country was created. The new king thought that a good king should be in charge of the crown and in charge of the people, so he decided to be the head of the Church and the head of the government dissolving the parliament in the country.

Charles I considered that having a place near God would benefit the crown and the government. This way of ruling was called The Divine Right of Kings, giving them the permission to raise taxes whenever he wanted to and to make decisions that would only benefit the people who helped in this cause.

The parliament was dissolved when Charles I broke his promise made in the Petition of Rights in which there were more benefits to the parliament. When the parliament discovered that Charles did not keep his promise, Charles dissolved the parliament to avoid problems against him and the crown. Charles ruled the country under the monarchy during eleven years until the Church of England wanted to reopen the parliament in 1640.

The Divine Right of Kings gives power to the king directly from God. That power is similar to the power of God in which the king can create, destroy, or make everything as he wants to. If someone considered that what the king did was unfair, then that person is consider a bad Christian, so they were forced to follow all the rules given by the king, including those who did not benefit them.

Because of the Divine Right of Kings, the Puritans felt disappointed at the discriminations they were subjected to. The already dissolved parliament supported the Puritan movement and helped them in getting back the rights they had before Charles I ruled the country. This parliament, also known as the House of Common, was asked for help to get more taxes and to finance a war in Scotland. They did not accept the offer and preferred to get involved in ruling better the country after eleven years of parliament absence.

The Puritans supported this new parliament and they also supported, especially Irish Puritans, the decision of giving the army control to the parliament avoid unnecessary wars and to participate in those they considered were important to the country. Finally, under the Militia Ordinance, the parliament took control over the army and pushed the beginning of the Civil War.

Even though Puritans were discriminated by the government of Charles I, they were still interested in accusing Catholics to avoid definitely their religion. However, Charles I could not agree on that because his wife, Henriette Marie of France, who was Catholic.

Finally, in 1642, the House of Common got in conflict with the king, giving the initial stage of the Civil War.

The Civil War (1642 – 1649) started when the parliament decided to take under control the actual situation of the country in that time. As the parliament was not consider to make decisions to rule the country, they, supported by the middle class Puritans, organized a war in which the main objective was to overthrow Charles I government.

The Puritan army was under control of Oliver Cromwell, an Irish soldier known after as Lord Protector. He leaded an army made up of the Roundheads (Puritans) and fought against the Cavaliers (Charles’ supporters).

This Civil War was a series of wars that conducted to the liberation of the crown into the parliament forming the Republic, a new way of ruling without the monarchy, after Charles I execution in 1649. The parliament also destroyed the aristocracy (House of Lords) and the Anglican Church, getting out some rituals and ceremonies that belonged to the church. As winners, they wanted to impose the Calvinism as the main religion, but their ideas were abolished by the Puritans who wanted a religion that tolerates all forms of Protestantism.

The Republic, also known as the Commonwealth, ruled the country according to the Puritan principles, but also by some military principles given by Oliver Cromwell.

The land (England) was divided into eleven districts each one ruled by a Major General who was in control of maintaining order, collecting taxes and imposing Puritan principles into the society. On Sundays, people were forced to follow Puritan principles giving some time to the church. As the society did not follow this important rule, all kinds of public recreation were prohibited. Many theaters were closed and some races such us cocks and horses one were banned.

Then was Cromwell the one who conquered Ireland and Scotland, giving a new name to the whole land: Great Britain.

After his death, nobody could rule the country as he did even though he wanted his son Richard Cromwell as his follower, the parliament did not agree in his last decision, so the Republic he formed with the Irish Puritans was declining slowly until in 1660 the monarchy took his place back again.

In 1660, Charles II, a Roman Catholic son of Charles I and Henrriete Marie, took control of Great Britain giving its place to the monarchy again.

This period is known as the Restoration because the old way of ruling the land, before Cromwell, was back.

As Charles II took the throne, many changes appeared. The new king gave permission to re-open theaters giving a great space to the renaissance of the English Literature and to have fun watching races. English Literature was strongly influenced by the French culture because Charles II was in exile in France during the Republic, so he brought with him some literary genres used in France.

He also accepted the Anglican Book for Prayers and the Church of England was taken into account again. This book had some words use in Sacraments, it included prayers for the morning and the evening; it also has information about the Holy Communion, Marriage, Confirmation, and Funerals.

Charles II proclaimed the Declaration of Breda in which it is given pardon to the people who suffered crime during the English Civil War. The declaration was written and published to the public to make the statements clear and available to everyone. In this declaration, Charles promised religious tolerance between the three major groups mostly to the Catholics and Protestants, pardon to those who suffered during the word and protection for them and their families.

Charles considered the parliament as part of the government and was very carefully in asking them the decisions to be taken, so he would keep a peaceful environment in England between the parliament and the monarchy, especially in issues related to money because the monarchy still depends on the parliament to its finance.

Chales II government was interrupted by his brother James II, a Catholic, came to the throne with the idea of taking Catholicism back. However the majority religious group belonged to the Protestants. James had many problems because of the religion group he belonged to. People were not able to change their religion again and they were not able to disrupt their life style because of religious problems. So he proclaimed the Declaration of Indulgencies in which he established freedom of religion in England. However it was avoided because it did not guarantee the Anglican Church as main religion in Great Britain.

It was the protestant William III who fought against James II, invading England, to have Protestantism back into the English government.

William III victory was known as the Glorious Revolution in which he could maintain the English religion as a Protestant one.

The English parliament asked William to invade England so as to get Protestantism back into the throne. In 1688, William III invaded England and defeated James II and assuming the throne in 1689.

The parliament finally took its right to rule the country and had the opportunity to participate in making important decisions to the English government.

William III was the first king in recognizing the rights of the Parliament establishing the Bills of Rights in which all the decisions are taken by the parliament and the monarchy, but no decision can be made only by one of them. Some of the rights were:

No monarch could assume the throne without the express approval of Parliament

The monarch would be subject to all the laws of the realm

No Catholic could assume the English throne

The Bill of Rights was the beginning of a new way of ruling the country in which the parliament was dependant of the monarchy and the monarchy was dependant of the parliament.

As we could observe, the three religious groups presented in England during the 17th century influenced strongly in the decisions made by the government in how to rule the country. No king had made his own decision on how to rule, in fact, they always were aware of their religious background.

Different kings were very worried about the country, but they always faced problems because of religious minorities. Despite their problems, they could take Great Britain into a manageable country and could develop their life style, especially in how to rule the country.

As we could see, Protestantism, Catholicism and Puritans were very presented in this time and highly influenced the way of ruling England. Even though kings always took into account their privileges and interests first, they were always influenced by their religious background.


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