Forced Loans, 1626-27

Having abruptly dissolved the Parliament of 1626 before it had granted any subsidies, King Charles found himself desperately short of money. News of Imperial victories in Europe and recriminations over his own failure to act made him more determined than ever to strike a blow for the Protestant cause. To finance his war plans, the King borrowed money on the security of the crown jewels, collected customs duties that Parliament had not sanctioned and imposed forced loans on his wealthier subjects. Nobility and gentry of every shire were appointed to act as commissioners for the collection of the loans. More than £250,000 was raised within a year, but the loans were deeply unpopular.

Seventy-six prominent gentlemen were imprisoned for refusing to lend money and for obstructing the work of local collectors. They were not charged, however, for fear that magistrates might decide against the King. In the past, English monarchs had sometimes imprisoned people without bringing charges or showing cause, but only in exceptional cases where state security was threatened. Charles' use of this power for political ends was unprecedented.

Late in 1627, five imprisoned gentlemen applied for writs of habeus corpus, which called into question the legality of their imprisonment. Judges found in favour of the King and the five were returned to prison, but the case became a focus of opposition to the King's arbitrary use of his powers.

Charles also attempted to mobilise the Church in support of the forced loans. Roger Maynwaring and Robert Sibthorpe preached sermons justifying the King's actions by virtue of his Divine Right. Charles ordered the publication of their sermons, but George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury, was reluctant to license them. A commission of bishops, including William Laud, bypassed the Archbishop and the sermons were licensed. Thereafter, Laud's influence in the Church of England steadily increased.


Sources:

Pauline Gregg, King Charles I (Berkeley 1984)

Mark A. Kishlansky and John Morrill, King Charles I, Oxford DNB 2004

Links

The Case of the Five Knights www.constitution.org

Legal analysis of the Case of the Five Knights www.drbilllong.com