The Personal Rule

The end of the war with Spain in 1630 was not only an event that marked an end to English intervention in Europe for two decades; it marked a reversion to a pro-Spanish foreign policy that in the long-term would be a constituent part in the collapse of royal authority. If Charles was going to rule without parliaments, expensive foreign policies would have to be suspended. Progressively during the 1630s Charles leaned towards Spain, a state anxious to lure England from the Anglo-Dutch alliance. If Charles' neutrality could be guaranteed, the Spanish could combat the Dutch more effectively. In 1630 Charles signed an Anglo- Spanish naval agreement that, in a reversal of the previous policy, assisted the Spanish fleet against Dutch shipping. In 1631 the Swedish king, the military mastermind Gustavus Adolphus, made Charles an offer for the recovery of the Palatinate. Charles would have to provide £200,000 in military aid. The cause was still popular in England and a parliament would have been willing to grant the necessary subsidy. Further, the majority of the Privy Council and the Queen favoured siding with Gustavus Adolphus. Charles' decision not to summon a parliament was an important turning-point in his reign; dismissing an opportunity to allay fears about popery and win popularity with a strong show of commitment to Protestantism, the King chose to continue with arbitrary governmental, and unpopular religious and foreign policies.

Spain continued to receive Charles' assistance, by 1635 receiving English ships to transport silver coins the Spanish had been permitted to mint in England, and men to the Netherlands to bolster the war against the Dutch. A papal agent arrived at the Court, and Charles expressed his willingness to negotiate with the pope (on the grounds he was a temporal prince). The fears of a popish plot in England were influenced and reinforced by the knowledge of Charles' conduct in foreign affairs during the Personal Rule. When a pro-Spanish foreign policy was linked to the imposition of Arminian innovations in the Church, and rumours of a crypto-Catholic king and popish plots, it is unsurprising that in 1648 when the Palatinate was restored to Frederick's son, Charles I had been defeated in civil war and stood on the eve of trial and execution for treason against the people, a radical situation for which religious motives had been of great significance. In short, the foreign policy of the Personal Rule exposes the distance of Charles I from his subjects - the King either did not realise the unpopularity of his policies, or it is a measure of his political ineptitude. England was anxious to make an active contribution to the Protestant cause on the Continent, yet Charles pursued a 'neutral' policy that meant English assistance for the Spanish war effort in the Netherlands against the Protestant Dutch.

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