Between 1603 and 1629, English government was generally well run and certainly James was a great success in terms of religion. After 1625, Charles showed less confidence in handling politics and government and this is shown by the beginning of his Personal Rule in 1629. James had a mixed record with Parliament, Charles had a disastrous one. Faction was not a strong point for either King: both Kings failed to live up to Elizabeth’s highly successful approach. Within four years of James death, Charles had quickly managed to undo all of his father’s good work with regards religion.
Religion became a political matter again as Charles pushed towards Arminianism causing the elite to fear a return to Catholicism. James on the other hand had been tolerant with both faiths and upon his arrival from Scotland, Puritan ministers were optimistic in presenting him with the Millinery Petition in 1603. Although James did agree to attend a conference at Hampton Court to listen to their requests, their hopes were short lived and they were warned of the dangers of not conforming. Like Elizabeth, James viewed the Church in political terms so within a few years, after asserting his authority he softened his stance considerably.
The Catholic community had also been hopeful that he would easy Catholic persecution out of respect for his mother, and in their favour James initially abolished recuscancy fines only to reimpose them after considerably loss of income and demands from Parliament. Although he became more cautious after the Gunpowder plot in 1605, he nevertheless believed that religious harmony could best be achieved without provocation so discreet Catholics could worship undisturbed during his reign and as a community they remained quiescent until his death.
Compromise was further exercised by the Kings appointment of Abbot as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1611 whose more moderate approach to religious groups saw Puritan sensitivities treated with tact in return for demonstrating obedience to the King. James also recognised the need to improve the numbers and quality of the clergy and had no objection to the widespread of lay impropriation, which served to ease relations with the gentry.
This cautious and tactful approach that James had used in making changes to the Church ended in 1625 upon the accession of Charles who places order and uniformity above tact and embarked on a campaign to reform the Church according to his own vision. This was reflected in his appointment and rapid promotion of Armenian leader William Laud who went from first being the Bishop of Bath in 1626, to the Privy Council in 1627, Bishop of London in 1628 and eventually became Archbishop of Canterbury.
He was a hugely influential figure with regards to Charles religious policies and consequently also caused much of the dispute with Parliament, as they feared he was dangerously close to restoring Catholicism. The appeal of Arminianism to Charles is understandable because of his fastidious nature and love of beauty and his position regarding religion was made even more unstable by the influence of his Catholic wife, Henrietta Maria of France and her permission to worship openly at Court.
Leading Armenians contributed to the unstable parliamentary relations by defending his behaviour over the forced loan and argued that his subjects must obey even an unjust King. The promotion of Armenians to positions of power was rapid and Calvinists were progressively excluded from important matters and the elite’s fears were confirmed when he began to assemble an army to impose the new prayer book in Scotland. Unfortunately, James relationships with Parliament were not nearly so stable as his religious affairs.
His inconsistent yet strong relations with Parliament, even if they were not always good ones often carried wise decisions, such as in his first decision to keep Robert Cecil. His generous treatment of the elite served for a promising start and the Parliament between 1603 and 1610 was active in passing legislation on a scale not seen since the reign of Henry VIII. Through this James had acknowledged that he was more powerful when Parliament was in session as he could pass statute laws.
However, this only lasted until MPs grew impatient with the King’s extravagance and reliance of favourites and by 1610 there were complaints in Parliament about impositions and the failure of Cecil’s Great Contract due to mutual mistrust, leading to his dismissal; a disaster for James. The Gunpowder Plot had not only served to make James more cautious towards Catholics but it also made way for temporary Protestant unity in which James was given grants to cover his debts but his persistence over a potential union with Scotland irked Parliament.
The worst period for relations with Parliament in James reign could be said to be the 1614 Addled Parliament when no legislation was passed. James’ mixed relations were sharply contrasted by the mutual impatience between Charles and Parliament. His poor relationship was signified by the dissolution after just four years and the early years had seen arguments over wasted money on war with Spain and tonnage and poundage.
The attempted impeachment of Buckingham had angered the King, but Charles grudgingly accepted the terms of the Petition of Right, which could have brought a reconciliation, only to be ruined by the assassination of Buckingham and MPs open celebration of this in 1628. Both Kings were not brilliantly successful when it came to faction, although admittedly Charles was slightly better. James’ favouritism began with Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset who was a considerable influence but lacked the means to handle it.
When he married into the Howard faction however, Parliament tried to entice the King’s favour away from Carr towards George Villiers, a decision they would come to regret in the future. Villiers did not result in the immediate fall of Carr and it took the Overbury scandal to remove him from Court. James court was raucous and undignified and came undre much criticism in contrast to the majestic one of Elizabeth’s and the English elite often felt alienated by the strong presence of Scottish factions.
The bawdiness and catamites of James’ court was replaced by Charles’ formal dignified and elegant one but his major downfall was Buckinghams continued dominance to the point where he was assassinated. After this the court was kept at arms length and Henrietta Maria became a closer influence to the King, so Parliament had unintentionally caused their own problems again. James was indulgent with factions but C’s major flaw was to allow B to continue to dominate.