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England and the Growth of Royal Power in Europe

Page history last edited by Robert W. Maloy 1 month, 3 weeks ago


Topics on this page


Prince of Orange Landing at Torbay, engraving by William Miller (1852)

A. The Political Culture of England and how it allowed for the English Civil War to manifest.

  • Common Law
  • Habeas Corpus 


CROSS-LINK: Dramatic Event Page: English Peasant Revolt of 1381

B. The causes and essential events of the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution of 1688.


CROSS-LINK: The Glorious Revolution of 1688


  • The English Petition of Right (1628)
  • English Civil War (1642-1651)
  • Absolutism


C. The effect of the Glorious Revolution on the development of constitutional government and liberty in England, including the importance of the English Bill of Rights and how it limited the power of the monarch to act without the consent of Parliament.


  • English Bill of Rights (1689)
  • English Political Philosophers
  • The Prime Minister
  • Changing Political Roles for Women




Monarchs and Nation States 


Historical Biography page: Queen Victoria


Castle Howe, Kendal England

Castle Howe, Kendal


Focus Question: Why was England the main exception to the growth of absolutism in Europe?


A. The Political Culture of England and how it allowed for the English Civil War to manifest.

First and foremost it must be understood that England was always the odd one out in Europe.


  • Isolated from the continent, the English have always had a unique way of choosing their leaders.
    • The key word here is "choose" because that has more or less been the tradition of the British since the days of the Anglo - Saxons.


  • The Roman Historian Tacitus describes the Anglo - Saxons as "fiercely individual, frequently violent, and fiercely loyal tribesman serving a chosen lord."
    • The idea being emphasized here is the idea that a leader has the right to rule by consent. The English than, almost by default, are opposed to absolutism.

Common Law
This tradition eventually expanded into the exercise of common law. Common law is a ruling that has been repeated over and over again to the point where it becomes a law in all but name. An example of how common law works would be if murder wasn't illegal but the courts punished murderers for their murders. If enough of the courts do this then murder would be punishable by common law.

Click here to read more on common law.

Habeas Corpus
Similarly Habeas Corpus, a law that came out of the Baron's War (1215 - 1217) stated that the King could not punish any person without a trail of their peers.

  • In essence, Habeas Corpus is the right to a trial. This effectively limits the King's power to do away with anyone on a whim making it impossible for absolutism to occur in England in its entirety.

Defiance against tyranny is the calling card of the English. If the sovereignty of England or the if their rights as Englishmen seem threatened they will not hesitate to do to take action.


  • This is most evidently shown during the Reign of Henry VIII. Henry VIII was perhaps the most English of English Kings. He committed the ultimate taboo and broke with the Catholic Church, which he supported vigorously for the entirety of his adult life, after the Pope refused to nullify his first marriage.


  • Henry established the Church of England and made England a protestant nation. This may seem petty to us today but in the eyes of Henry VIII is was a real problem. After 23 years of marriage Henry had not produced a son with his wife Catherine of Aragon. Henry was desperate to sire a son as there was no legal precedent for his daughter Mary to ascend to the throne. It was a political crisis and the fact that the Pope was denying Henry to effectively run his country was reason enough for him to found the Church of England.


What You Should Know About Habeas Corpus


  Women Pre-English Civil War



This podcast is about the execution of Anne Boleyn. It describes what she saw and felt in the tower of London, and what happened during and after her execution


It was considered "oppression" and "tyranny" when a foreign power, a pope, or even a King tells the English what to do; but it is not so when a man tells a woman what to do.

A great example of how women were treated before the English Civil war and Glorious Revolution is how Henry VIII treated his wives. Even the highest class of women, women in the court and in Catherine of Aragon's case, the Queen of England were not safe from the power of the men in society. Women did have some ability to work and or contribute to society but it would usually depend on the death of the men in her life.

Click here to read more about the wives of Henry VIII


Another great link to the wives of Henry VIII: Henry VIII's Six Wives: Key Facts About the Queens 

Life for women in Anglo- Saxon England was a little bit better. Pre - Norman Conquest the women of society were expected to be submissive and dainty. That being said their were rare cases of females becoming warriors. They were seen as exceptionally dangerous because they had gone against their nature. Since the assumed nature of women was to be submissive and dainty they were seen as unnatural and therefore, quite feared. Unfortunately, this seems to have been washed away with many other traditions with the Norman Conquest of 1066

Click here to read more about women in Anglo - Saxon England



 This YouTube video discusses the lives of the wives of Henry VIII before, during, and after their execution. It gives a glimpse into what life was like for noble women in England.


 SIX Official Lesson Plans (dedicated to the wives of Henry VIII), derived from the musical. 



B. The causes and essential events of the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

The English Petition of Right (1628)

Rights contained within this document:

The English Civil War (1642-1651)

Click here for an overview of the English Civil War from Boise State University.


Click here for a summary of the English Civil War.

How Financial Innovation Helped Start the English Civil War (and Why That's Important Today) from Stanford University School of Business (April 25, 2015)

Chronology of Events

James VI of Scotland gained power in England, and became its autocratic James I. He grew very suspicious of Parliament, which led to many disagreements, however, never serious enough to lead to war. After his death in 1625, Parliament saw their opportunity to assert their power.

However, at this time a new king, King Charles I was coming to power. Charles I was just as tyrannical as James VI, and therefore, also had many conflicts with Parliament. After the Scots revolted against Charles I due to religious differences, he turned to Parliament for help. They used this as an opportunity to implement reforms. The political reforms involved little conflict, however, that was not the case when it came to the religious conflicts.


English Civil War Map, 1642 to 1645
English Civil War Map, 1642 to 1645

The War itself was a conflict between English Parliamentarians who supported the Parliament, and Royalists who supported King Charles I.

It involved three important battles. The battle at Edge Hill (1642), which had no clear victor, the battle at Marston Moor (1644) ended with the loss of Northern England for Charles I. Finally, the battle at Naseby (1645) signaled the end of the war between the two sides.

At this battle, the New Model Army defeated King Charles I and his cause. This defeat led to both trial and execution of King Charles I, and exile of Kind Charles II. It also established English rule under Oliver Cromwell.

One of Cromwell's most controversial legacies was his involvement in Ireland.

Click to view more information about the history, technology, battles, people involved, and tactics of The English Civil War

external image 200px-Hebrew_timeline.svg.pngClick to view a timeline of The Civil War


Cromwell at Dunbar. Painting by Andrew Carrick Gow, 1886
Cromwell at Dunbar. Painting by Andrew Carrick Gow, 1886

  • Click here for learning plans and resources on the English Civil War


  • Here is a learning plan on the the rise of Oliver Cromwell and the English Civil War.

Samuel Pepys was an Englishman who worked under Charles II, King James II, and Oliver Cromwell. He is widely known for his diaries, where he kept records of the government changes (especially during the English Restoration), the plague, the Great Fire of London, and other notable events.


You can read his diary here or here.

Here is a useful website called Quizlet that allows students to learn vocabulary regarding the English Civil War and absolutism.

Here are two YouTube clips from Horrible Histories about the English Civil War expressed in interesting and entertaining ways.





  • Here is a website with firsthand letters written by women to their sons. It also has accounts of the environment surrounding the English Civil War.



  • Click here to read about King Charles I's wife, Queen Henrietta.

Game where the student is King Charles I and has to deal with different scenarios and answer questions.




Image result for absolutism

Absolutism is essentially when a centralized governing body, for example, a monarch or a dictator are able to completely consolidate power and authority. In an absolutist system that leader is not subject to any checks by other forms of government and often can rule as he or she pleases without intervention. 


Power Point on Absolutism


YouTube Lecture on Absolutism 1650, video.

Absolute Monarchies, 1450-1750 is a powerpoint that lists several European Monarchies which make England the exception to absolute rule in Europe

Click here for a brief video about how the Glorious Revolution may have influenced the 13 American Colonies.



C. The effect of the Glorious Revolution on the development of constitutional government and liberty in England, including the importance of the English Bill of Rights and how it limited the power of the monarch to act without the consent of Parliament.

"England's Glorious Revolution was complex. It involved a struggle for power between a Catholic king and Protestant Parliament, a fight over religious and civil liberties, differences between emerging political parties, and a foreign invasion" (Bill of Rights in Action, 25(3), Spring 2010, p. 1).

As part of the Glorious Revolution, two English political groups, the Whigs and the Tories, "were the first parties to rally around sets of principles in a law-making body" (as shown in the following table from Bill of Rights in Action, 25(3), Spring 2010, p. 2).


The monarch was the supreme power, answerable only to God.
The monarch shares power with Parliament. Both are answerable to the people.
The monarchy is based on hereditary succession.
The hereditary succession may be overridden by the common good.
The Church of England is the established state church.
The Church of England retains too many Catholic practices and should be reformed.



The English Bill of Rights (1689)

English Bill of Rights (1689) set forth basic liberties including freedom of elections, freedom of debate in Parliament, and freedom from cruel and unusual punishments.

The English Bill of Rights changed the structure of government. This Bill of Rights gave the Parliament more power than ever before. According to the Bill, laws that the king wanted must be approved by Parliament before being passed. This is a complete departure from the complete power of the kings divine right. It also gave the subjects the right to petition the King and the right to bear arms.


The glorious revolution was the beginning of the end for absolutist rule in England. Not only did it show that the people of England would not be subject to the absolute power of a king but it led to the creation of the english bill of rights which would prevent it all together. Parliament, now with much more power, would balance the powers of the king and would make it almost impossible for an absolutist ruler to take the throne. 


Click here and here for more information and an interpretation of the Bill of Rights

See this video to see how the Magna Carta and English Bill of Rights influenced the American Bill of Rights.

English Political Philosophers


John Locke


John Locke




All of the changes occurring in 17th Century England made it a battleground for different schools of political philosophy.


  • Two of the most influential writers at the time were Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. 


  • Hobbes advocated an absolute monarchy, which was prevalent in most of Europe at the time, as the best form of government. 


  • His greatest opponent, Locke, known as the "Father of Liberalism", was a firm believer in representative government and the rights of the people.


  • Click here for a short video on one of Locke's most influential works, Two Treatises of Government.


  • Click here for a video describing the views of Thomas Hobbes and how they were influenced by the conflict occurring in England.



The Prime Minister

The Glorious Revolution also paved the way for the institution of the Prime Minister in 1721, a new position of power in the British government that checked the absolute authority of the monarch.

To learn about the causes and significance of that institution, click here.

For information on past Prime Ministers, click here

The Role and Powers of the Prime Minister, from Parliament website

What are the Queen's Powers?

President vs. Prime Minister from History Learning site

Countries That Have Both a President and a Prime Minister

  • Examples include France, Egypt, Portugal, Niger, Ukraine, and Sao Tompe and Principe

Changing Political Roles for Women
The extreme inequities between men and women stimulated a debate about women’s roles known as “The Woman Question.”

  • Women were denied the right to vote or hold political office throughout the period, but gradually won significant rights such as custody of minor children and the ownership of property in marriage.

See this video for a modern comprehensive explanation of "The Woman Question".

For parliamentary acts about women's freedoms see Women's Property Act of 1882

external image Elizabeth_Barrett_Browning_2.jpg
For an article on the life of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, an important Victorian poet and political activist, click here.



















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