Jacob I (1603-25), great-great-nephew of Henry VIII, had a high opinion of the divine right of kings, but initially tried to avoid conflicts with parliament. In 1605, the powder conspiracy forced him to crack down on the Catholics. His plan to unite England and Scotland under constitutional law also turned out to be premature. There were differences with parliament v. a. due to the king’s growing financial hardship, partly a political legacy that dated from the times of Henry VIII and Elizabeth. According to Shoppingpicks, the taxes approved by parliament were never enough to cover the ever-increasing expenses of the crown, and any attempt by Jacob Finding new sources of finance was interpreted as an encroachment on the rights of parliament. The difficulties were also compounded by Puritanism, which penetrated into the leading political circles. The Spanish-friendly course of foreign policy made Jakob unpopular. In order to balance the denominational differences, he married his heir Karl to the Catholic Henriette Maria of France, his daughter Elisabeth to the Protestant Elector Friedrich V of the Palatinate. Jacob did not allow himself to be drawn into the Thirty Years’ War; so England could enjoy external peace for a generation.
Karl I (1625–49), son of Jacob I, embodied the gentlemanly ideal of his time and promoted art (A. van Dyck). He was even more convinced than his father of the divine rights of kings. His goal of reconciliation with Rome worried the Anglicans as well as the Puritans, so he found increasing resistance in the increasingly self-confident parliament. In 1628 he approved the Petition of Right, but dissolved Parliament in 1629 and ruled now with the help of his closest advisers, Lord Straffords and Archbishop W. Laud.
After a campaign against the Scots, who had revolted against the rigid church policy of Charles I, had failed, Karl had to decide to convene parliament again in 1640. This enforced the execution of Strafford in 1641. When an uprising in Ireland (1641) made it necessary to send an army, a dispute arose over whether it should be subordinated to the king, who wanted to maintain his unrestricted position of power, or to parliament, which now feared for its existence. In 1642 the civil war broke out in which the royals (cavaliers) the supporters of parliament (round heads) encountered. On the side of parliament stood the wealthy east and south of the country, v. a. London as well as the fleet; the king found his support especially in the west as well as with most of the nobility. The initial superiority of the royals came to an end when O. Cromwell reorganized the parliamentary army (1645 creation of the “New Model Army”) and with it forced a decision in the civil war (Battle of Naseby on June 14, 1645; takeover of Oxford, the last great royalist army Base, 1646).
But the military victory did not lead to peace, but to revolution. The parliament was split between the moderate Presbyterians, who wanted a church association to be preserved and who sought a political compromise with the king, and the more radical Independents who represented the ideal of the unrestricted parish church.
When Charles I started a second civil war in 1648 (Scottish defeat at Preston, 17-19 August 1648) with the help of the Scots, who had initially extradited him to the English parliament after his escape in 1646, and he then negotiated with parliament (minor concessions in the Newport Agreement, September 1648), Cromwell had the Presbyterian MPs forcibly expelled from Parliament on December 6, 1648, whose remaining radical Puritan minority (rump parliament) sentenced the king to death in a show trial and had this sentence carried out on January 30, 1649, an act unheard of in the age of monarchy.
England was declared the Commonwealth of England (Commonwealth) in 1649 (avoiding the name republic), which also included Scotland and Ireland – both of which were militarily subordinated in the meantime – in the Protectorate Constitution in 1653.
In 1653 Cromwell dissolved the “Long Parliament”. The constitution, drafted by his officers, gave him the title of “Lord Protector”. Leaning on the army, holding down parliament with dictatorship, Cromwell ruled like an absolute ruler. Tolerant in domestic politics, Cromwell admitted the Quakers and the Jews who had been excluded from England since Edward I. He kept the social revolutionary radicals (Levellers) within limits. In terms of foreign policy, he led after the war against the Netherlands, which was still unleashed by the Commonwealth (after the Navigation Act 1651 Sea War 1652-54) and conducted in alliance with France war against Spain (1655-58), England back into the position it under Elizabeth I had taken.