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Essay/Term paper: The political and religious winds of the seventeenth century from oliver cromwell to charles ii

Essay, term paper, research paper:  History

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The Restoration, a period of constantly changing ideals, shows how the change in government from Charles I to Oliver Cromwell affected the people of that time, shows the Child of Hope, shows the shift in winds of religion, compares and contrasts Absolutism and Constitutionalism, shows how the influence of the English people on the world, and shows a new era being heralded in without which we would not exist. The seventeenth century, started with the Ascension of Charles I to the throne of his father James II. It was a relatively stable period under Charles I, yet it soon became engrossed in a civil war, of which. Oliver Cromwell and Dissenters led. They formed an improvised republic, which later collapsed. This led to restoration of Charles II, whose new models of government helped to change ideals in religion not only in Europe, but also in the world.

James I handed the reigns of the commonwealth to his only male heir Charles, who at the age of 25 still had no wife, and therefore was not bringing any legitimate heirs to the throne with him (Chapman 17). Charles I was a firm believer in divine right. During his reign he rarely asked for help, believing his decisions as those ordained by god (Kagan 451). As stated by Howard Tomlinson: "The most high and sacred order of kings is of divine right, being the ordinance of God himself, founded in the prime laws of nature, and clearly established by expressed texts both of old and new testaments" (4). During the reign of Charles I problems with parliament escalated to a point at which confusion erupted (Wright 187). Problems with money had plagued this monarchy for several centuries, though later it would see wealth coming from its colonies (Buchan 9). The Tudors (before the Stuarts) were better able to confront parliament, and had much more success in doing so (Wright 186).

After the Scottish rebellion the crown needed money again, and since money could not be raised without the consent of parliament, parliament began to stay in session more (Wright 187). The foreign policy Charles was able to implement helped the royal family get out of a financial bind (Kishlansky 61). The family was known to be protestant yet nearing the end of his reign there is evidence to prove Charles I was at heart Roman Catholic (Chapman 283). This Catholic influence would continue to play a role in the lives of the rest of the monarchy (Chapman 282). During January of 1629 it was decided by parliament to legally try to reduce the power held by the crown. In so doing it was found that Popery and placing taxes on the people without their consent was treason (Kagan 454). Popery was especially bad in England because it was in England that the king was also the head of the church and could make any religious policies he desired.

When parliament declared Charles I guilty of treason England was full of mixed emotions. Those who followed the king believed that only through submission to divine authority could they be true Christians. Dissenters were able to gain control thus beheading Charles, and unknowingly creating a dictator (Tomlinson 3).

Royalists were those who supported the king. Their name was derived from Caballeo (Spanish) this term denoted someone who was Catholic and had an extreme dislike for Protestants (Chapman 57). Roundheads were those who supported anyone but the king. Their name referred to the apprentices of the day, these apprentices caused conflicts to escalate into violence and in turn caused many people to flee the cities (Chapman 58).

With compromise now nearly impossible parliament was not about to change. It could not change because: Parliament was already so far ahead, Religion could be used to control and sway the people, and Charles was stubborn (Buchan 53/54). Oliver Cromwell emerges as the leader of the dissenters and quickly takes control of a volatile situation. Authority was clearly being questioned (Wright 190). The time parliament had in control was useless, because now they could not agree with Oliver Cromwell (Wright 188). They had established the Instrument of Government which is referred to as the first constitution, done in contemporary style it would later be the backbone of the United States Constitution, though it helped England very little (Lunt 441). This Instrument of Government was passed by parliament, yet it still gave the people of England very little, so it had to be maintained by force (Lunt 440). This Cavalier Parliament brought with it strict Protestant rules, it unified the Squire and Parson of the time. They now had one goal to spread their religion (Kishlansky 61). There was dissention even among the dissenters, who could not agree on religious authority (Wright 8). Cromwell acted as the kings he hated when in 1656 he was forced to call parliament back into session, and to make sure he received the money he so desperately needed, he excluded 100 members who he knew would vote against him (Lunt 442). Finally, when this Parliament could take no more the made a date for dissolution, yet Oliver could not wait, and was forced to show his true colors when he cast out the hose and declared it officially dissolved (Lunt 439). Cromwell, as history shows, was a very good military strategist, but a poor politician (Roots 20). It is said that we must judge not only by what someone did, but also by what they set out to do (Buchan 428).

The last words of Oliver Cromwell as written by John Buchan are as follows: ""Lord, tough I am a miserable wretched creature…give them consistency of judgment, one heart, and mutual love…"" (441). The improvised republic was now over, as stated by John Buchan: "A republic can not be made merely by decapitating a monarchy" (351). England was now no longer a nation, but in the confusion of small factions. For a while it looked as if she never would be (Buchan 261). It was during this time that several members of the clergy and upper society began to refuse allegiance; they stated that they had already sworn allegiance to James II (Tomlinson 5). After William and Mary consideration was given to the Duke of Monmouth who"s father was Charles II. This could not be legally proved, so he was then excluded, and his supporters were executed (Kinshlansky 62). Execution was seen as a must, trust was held sacred, and privacy cherished. Cardinal Richelieu (France) Stated: "The English were so foolish they killed their wisest man" in reference to the beheading of Charles I (Buchan 78). Now the Royalists worked diligently to spread rumors about this dictatorship (Chapman 340). The people of England were overjoyed when the reign of Oliver Cromwell was over, but his Commonwealth and Protectorate would be remembered, and used in the years to come (Lunt 443). Remarkable during this time it became fashionable to study Greek texts, thus the Humanist movement of the seventeenth century had begun (Wright 190).

The Child of Hope (Charles II) was to the people of England almost a God. They believed him to be ordained from God, and put faith in him as hope for the future (Chapman 65). Charles obliviously used the idea of Predestination to his advantage. Predestination was one of the central beliefs of those who were Protestant (England at this time was almost entirely protestant), and it was Martin Luther who saw it as a guarantee of the covenant (Roots 191).

So great was the adoration of this king that peasants would race out of their cottages to kiss his majesty (Chapman 81). The king even appointed a day, July Twenty-Sixth, in honor over his triumph over The Duke of Monmouth (Tomlinson 1). Soon this king had the support of foreign countries as well. The Spanish supported England, and they did this so that England would support Spain against her rivalry France (Chapman 302).

The religious winds of this time were variable and one had trouble choosing which to follow. They were still a problem under the rule of James II, because the puritans had thought he would be more supportive (Kagan 452). The Clergy took offense to this and stated that they most certainly did not change their sermons or morals to fit their present circumstances (Tomlinson 3). Unity and Order became the keys to control of religion in the seventeenth century. They were operating as one, which resulted in a unified and orderly clergy (Sutherland 6).

God"s work began to take on a new shape as the belief that god worked through people spread. People were not to be judged because judging them would be like judging God (Roots 215). Now that religion was back on the forefront, the politics of religion began to be questioned. People started to see the goals of their church, and most did not like what they saw (Sutherland 2). England since the time of Henry VIII tried to separate the pope-like duties of the Church of England from those of the king, both claimed to be of divine inspiration (Sutherland 2).

All this turmoil started coming to an end when what was called a Parliamentary Monarchy developed. This allowed both Parliament and the Monarch joint control of their fates. It let the people speak, yet still had the absolute control afforded a monarchy (Kagan 449). During the seventeenth century two forms of government had been developed in Europe. The first, adopted by England was constitutionalism, which would prove to be the best. It created a Constitution, written by the people, which governed the people (Kagan 449).

The other form of government, adopted by France was Absolutism. In absolutism all the power was held by the monarchy, which meant that the people (in general) were very unhappy because they had no voice in their government (Kagan 449). The court at Versailles had more influence on European culture than any other (Wright 188). These became the models of other countries, and only the monarchy that wasn"t dependant on the church or landed gentry could survive (Kagan 449/450).

Nearing the end of the rule of James II, a plot was revealed, in which the Jesuits (a catholic order) would assassinate the king, and in so doing would change England back to Catholicism (Kishlansky 62). This would have been a disaster for England since protestant dissenters made up the middle class of the day, the class that made most of the money their country ravenously took (Tomlinson 8). During this Popish Plot William Godfrey was found murdered, and it was arranged to look like a suicide. He was a justice of the peace, who most likely found out more then he needed to know (Marshall1). Most felt the Catholics were behind this, but it was later proved that Gofrey was their friend (Marshall 2). The Protestants took complete advantage of the situation, their propaganda bolstered their ideas, and the newly invented printing press spread these ideas like wild fire (Marshall 3). Now Godfrey was a martyr, there were many theories of his death, yet none could ever be proved (Marshall 1-2).

The new revolution was now taking place; this was due largely to a new oath, which parliament required the monarch to take. This oath required the king to uphold the customs and laws of the Protestants. (Kishlansky 63). Now science and philosophy as well as religion were being questioned ( Wright 189). This revolution was one of the most important in history (Wright 187).

Works Cited

Buchan, John. Oliver Cromwell. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Riverside Press, 1934.

Chapman, Hester W. The Tragedy of Charles II in the years 1630 – 1660. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1964.

Hooker, Robert. The New Century. Los Angles: University of California Press, 1972.

Kagan, Donald. The Western Heritage Since 1300. 6th ed. Prentice Hall: New Jersey, 1998.

Kishlansky, Mark A. "The Later Stuarts." Encyclopedia Britannica. 15th ed. 1993.

Lunt, W.E., History of England, 4th ed. New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1956.

Marshall, Alan. "To Make a Martyr: the Popish Plot and Protestant Propaganda. (Restoration England)." History Today v47 n3 p.39 (Mar. 1997): 7pp. Online. Internet. 1 Feb. 2000.

Roots, Ivan., ed. Cromwell: A Profile edited by Ivan Roots. New York: Hill and Wang, 1973.

Sutherland, Martin P. "Protestant divergence in the Restoration Crisis." Journal of Religious History. V21 n3 p.285 (oct 1997): 17pp. Online. Internet. 1 Feb. 2000.

Tomlinson, Howard. "Commemorating Charles I – King and Martyr?" History Today V45 n2 p11 (Feb. 1995). 8pp. Online. Internet. 1 Feb. 2000

Wright, Esmond., Kenneth M. Stampp. Illustrated World History. New York: McGraw – Hill Book Company, 1964.


The Restoration, a period of constantly changing ideals, shows how the change in government from Charles I to Oliver Cromwell affected the people of that time, shows the Child of Hope, shows the shift in winds of religion, compares and contrasts Absolutism and Constitutionalism, shows how the influence of the English people on the world, and shows a new era being heralded in without which we would not exist.


I. From James II to Charles I

A. Divine Right

B. Popery

II. Civil War

A. Dissenters

B. Royalists

III. Oliver Cromwell

A. Instrument Of Government and Rump Parliament

B. Death of Oliver Cromwell

IV. Child of Hope (Charles II)

A. Predestination

B. Support

V. Religious Unity

A. Variable Unity

B. God"s Work

VI. Constitutionalism Versus Absolutism

A. Constitutionalism

B. Absolutism

VII. Revolution

A. Popish Plot and Martyrdom

B. Revolution




Brad Evans

Presented to

Ms. Parsons

English IV

March 1, 2000


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