King Charles' Third Parliament, 1628-29
Despite the disastrous failure of two expeditions against Spain and France, King Charles and the Duke of Buckingham were determined to send another force to La Rochelle. Buckingham favoured calling another Parliament to raise the necessary funds; Charles was reluctant and only agreed on condition that there would be no more demands for Buckingham's impeachment.
The Petition of Right, 1628
King Charles' third Parliament duly assembled on 17 March 1628. His opening speech called for the immediate granting of taxes to continue the wars, but MPs decided that no money would be granted unless their various grievances were addressed. Led by Sir John Eliot, Sir Edward Coke, Sir Robert Phelips, John Selden and Sir Thomas Wentworth, the King's opponents drew up the Petition of Right.
The Petition was not an enactment of new law, but a declaration of established rights. It contained four demands:
- there should be no taxation without the consent of Parliament
- there should be no imprisonment without cause shown
- there should be no billeting of soldiers or sailors upon householders against their will
- there should be no martial law to punish ordinary offences by sailors or soldiers
These rights were claimed under laws and statutes from Magna Carta and the laws of Edward I, Edward III and Richard III. The third and fourth demands reflect the impact that Charles' warlike foreign policy was having upon everyday life.
Initially, Charles refused to give his consent to the Petition, but he was in desperate need of money. He consulted prominent magistrates regarding the legal status of the Petition. On the understanding that he could enforce his powers anyway, Charles consented to the Petition on 7 June 1628. Parliament then granted the subsidies the King needed. When MPs resumed their criticisms of Buckingham, however, Charles prorogued Parliament on 26 June, intending to recall it the following year.
The Three Resolutions, 1629
The second session of King Charles' third Parliament assembled on 23 January 1629. In August 1628, during the interval between the two sessions, the King's unpopular minister the Duke of Buckingham had been assassinated. Without Buckingham's divisive influence, the King hoped that Parliament would finally co-operate with him. Led by Sir John Eliot and John Pym, however, the House of Commons immediately began to complain about the growing influence of the Arminian faction in the Church of England, which Puritans regarded as crypto-Catholic.
Complaints were also made about the ongoing collection of tonnage and poundage, which had not been granted by Parliament and was therefore contrary to the Petition of Right. The dispute was aggravated by the case of John Rolle, a Member of Parliament imprisoned for refusing to pay the levy.
King Charles regarded Parliament's criticisms as an attack upon his authority. He briefly adjourned the House, hoping to arrange a compromise with his opponents. But when Parliament reassembled on 2 March 1629, the King's opponents led by Sir John Eliot issued a protestation known as the Three Resolutions. The protestation denounced Arminianism and encouraged merchants to refuse to pay tonnage and poundage. Those who paid were branded enemies to the Kingdom and betrayers of the liberties of England.
King Charles angrily ordered the Speaker, Sir John Finch, to adjourn Parliament once more. When Finch tried to rise to declare the session at an end, a group of MPs led by Denzil Holles strode forward and held him down in his chair. Insisting that the House had the right to decide when to adjourn, Holles ordered the Speaker to remain seated until the Three Resolutions had been passed. The doors of the Commons were locked and Holles read out the Protestation while the King's officials hammered at the door. No formal vote was taken in the ensuing confusion but many Members shouted their approval of Holles' actions. The Commons then voted their own adjournment.
A Royal proclamation was drawn up and King Charles announced the dissolution of Parliament on 10 March 1629. In a long declaration, the King defended his domestic and religious policies and asserted the Crown's right to collect tonnage and poundage without Parliament's consent. He denounced his opponents in Parliament and the following day, Sir John Eliot, Denzil Holles, William Strode and six others were arrested and imprisoned. The King resolved to govern without Parliament, and embarked upon the eleven-year period of his Personal Rule.
Pauline Gregg, King Charles I (Berkeley 1984)
Mark A. Kishlansky and John Morrill, King Charles I, Oxford DNB 2004
Petition of Right full text, www.constitution.org
Analysis of the Petition of Right www.drbilllong.com
Protestation of the House of Commons www.constitution.org
The King's declaration www.constitution.org