Britain in the seventeenth century

       The period from 1603 to 1640 was the time of the personal monarchy of the Early Stuarts in English history. It is said that James I and Charles I had had to bear the burnt of the rising spirit of independence characteristic of England in the seventeenth century. The growing desire of Parliament for independence, for sharing in the control of government was closely connected with the growth of Puritanism.

       The greatest religious question of the sixteenth century had changed from whether England should be Roman Catholic or not to whether it should be Anglican or Puritan.

       One of the most bright and well-known illustrations to the fact that the Roman Catholics didn’t leave their attempts to gain back their influence on the English church, was the so-called Gunpowder Plot, a failed attempt to blow up the Parliament building and kill both the king and all the members, and to set a Roman Catholic government. The explosion was supposed to take place on 5 November, 1605, but had been discovered on the same day. Since that time 5 November has been widely celebrated in Britain as the Guy Fawkes Day (named so after the executed leader of the Plot).

       Along with the religious conflict between the Anglicans and the Puritans, a great political conflict arose – a conflict between the unrestricted powers of the king on the one hand and the equal or even superior powers of the people represented by Parliament on the other. The views of Parliament held by James didn’t allow to it much power. Finally, the discord between James and the Parliament led to the disease and the soon death of the king in 1625.

       James I did a lot in order to unite Scotland and England during his reign, but was unsuccessful. In foreign affairs James shoved a tendency to establish peaceful relations with other countries. He brought the long war with Spain to a close, and avoided a temptation to take part in the Thirty Years’ War.

     If the reign of Elizabeth had been the wonderful time of exploration and sea expeditions, the reign of James became a period of settlement, when Englishmen began to found colonies in America, West India, and in the East Indies.

       Charles I, the son of James I, started his reign with launching a new war against Spain with no logical reason and mainly due to the personal ambitions. Soon England drifted into the one more war with France which brought no positive effect for any of the confronting parts.

       The middle of the seventeenth century was marked by the formation of the political parties. The earliest parties were informal groups supporting powerful members of Parliament. By the year 1640 there were two parties in Parliament, known as the Cavaliers and the Roundheads. The first one supported Charles I, and the Roundheads were their principal political opponents. By the end of seventeenth century these parties had evolved into two definite political formations, the royalists and those supporting parliamentary supremacy. The Royalists were called Tories by their opponents (it was a term of abuse for the original Tories being Irish bandits), and the Tories called the Parliamentarians Whigs after a group of Scottish cattle thieves. Much later these parties became known as the Conservatives and the Liberals.

       In 1689 James II landed in Ireland, where he had an army ready to hand. In July 1690 William III defeated James at the battle of Boyne. This event has been celebrated since by Orangemen, as Protestants of Northern Ireland belonging to the Orange Order call themselves. In October 1691 the Irish troops finally surrendered; as a condition of surrender William promised religious toleration for the Irish Catholics, but the promise was immediately broken by the passing of Penal Laws which deprived the Catholics of all civil and religious rights.

       In Scotland the new regime faced no much opposition. The expulsion of James was welcomed, and by 1692 William III’s sovereignty was undisputed throughout the British Isles. After William of Orange and Mary had been declared king and queen, Parliament added a number of new acts to the laws of constitution. Among them were the Triennal Act of 1694, that obliged the king to summon Parliament at least every three years, and the Septennial Act of 1715 which increased the normal term of Parliament’s existence from thee to seven years.

       Mary II and William III had no surviving children, and William was succeeded by Queen Anne, Mary’s younger sister. The major event of Queen Anne’s reign was the formation of the Kingdom of Great Britain. The Kingdom of Great Britain was formed in 1707 by the Act of Union between England and Scotland. London, the biggest city in Britain, with a population of about half a million, became the capital of the entire island. Great Britain from then on had a single Parliament and a single system of national administration and taxation. The units of weights and measures were unified.

       Queen Anne had no surviving children. She was succeeded by her nearest Protestant relative, the elector of Hannover, who came from Germany in 1714 and was accepted as King George I of Great Britain.

       The first years of George I’s reign were marked by the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715 raised by followers of Queen Anne’s half-brother, James Edward Stuart. In 1708 James had already attempted to invade Scotland with the help of French troops, but the invasion failed. In 1715 he wasn’t lucky again.


Дата: 2019-07-24, просмотров: 132.