The Problem of "Multiple Kingdoms": Scotland and Ireland

Of Charles' three kingdoms, Ireland was the thorn in his side. The Tudors had experienced considerable difficulties with controlling Ireland, and it would prove a major influence on the course of politics in England during the 1640s. Charles provoked Irish grievances with his promises to grant the Graces (i.e. concessions to Irish Catholics) at various points during the 1620s and 1630s in return for payment of dues to the crown. With an annual deficit of around £20,000, the kingdom was a financial liability to the English government. Under the Tudors Ireland had been a constant sore for the English polity with frequent rebellions, usually led by members of the Catholic landowning elite. Charles gave little of his own time to his duties in Scotland and Ireland and therefore to bring firm government and stability to Ireland Charles appointed Thomas Wentworth, one of the most energetic and efficient members of the Privy Council, as Lord Deputy. Suspicious of this prime mover of the Petition of Right in 1628, dispatching Wentworth to Ireland was a convenient means for Charles to use his services for the crown yet remove him from the centre of political power.

In Ireland Wentworth did much to impose the alleged 'Thorough' policy or approach to government - i.e. elevated royal prerogative, strong emphasis on central authority and close control of provincial government - proved temporarily successful. Though removed from the Caroline Court for much of the 1630s, his reputation made him one of the most detested politicians of Charles' government. Wentworth's achievements in Ireland were very superficial; after his recall to England in 1640 rebellion broke out in less than a year that prompted further dispute between Charles and the English Parliament over the control of the militia. The Scots were resentful of Charles' neglect as their king, the dearth of patronage and political power, and their exclusion from prospering English overseas trade. In stark contrast to the achievements of his father, Charles' policies in Scotland from the 1620s to the later 1630s revealed his detachment and perhaps the greatest example of his political ineptitude before the Civil Wars. In 1625 Charles revoked all grants of land the crown had made, including church and monastic lands given to the nobility during the Reformation, since 1540. The long-term political price, as in so many of Charles' policies, was hardly worth the short-term gains. Most damaging to royal authority in Scotland however were the liturgical changes Charles attempted to impose on the Scottish Kirk as part of his drive for religious and political uniformity in each of his three kingdoms.

In 1637 Charles resolved without the consultation or approval of any Scottish political or ecclesiastical assembly to impose the Book of Common Prayer [18] in Scotland. The liturgy Charles and Laud attempted to impose on the Scots proved unacceptable to the Presbyterian elements of Scottish society, provoking riots in a number of towns. The determination of the English crown to uphold its decision precipitated the collapse of confidence in Charles' ability to govern the kingdom in accordance with the interests of his subjects. Therefore in 1638 the National Covenant was signed to present the Arminian impositions on the Scottish Kirk a united front of opposition. When Charles refused to concede to the demands of the Covenanters war broke out. However the ineffectiveness of the English military machine (a long- term structural problem developing since the Tudor era) was fully exposed in the two Bishops' Wars as Charles' armies, denied parliamentary subsidy, were unfit to engage the Scots. England was the last of Charles' three kingdoms to fall into civil war, and the collapse of royal authority in the church and state of Scotland and Ireland were important factors in the breakdown of political stability in England.

[18. Book of Common Prayer: Standard book of service that was required to be used in all churches and places of worship in England. The first version had been drafted under Edward VI, but during the seventeenth century that drafted in 1559 under Elizabeth predominated. William Laud's alterations to the format of Anglican worship provoked considerable religious-political opposition to the Crown. Further, Charles I's imposition of an Anglican liturgy on te Scottish Church first through a book of Canons in 1636 and the Scottish Book of Common Prayer in 1637 provoked rebellion in Scotland, which contributed to the outbreak of the English Civil Wars.]

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