Bishops’ Wars, The: The History of the Religious Conflicts that Engulfed Britain and Led to the First English Civil War

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England has more often been faced with the claims of competing kings and queens than with a period of no monarch at all. The major exception to that rule came in the 11 years between 1649 and 1660, when England was a republic. Following the disastrous reign of Charles I and the civil wars that led to his execution, Parliament and the army ruled England.

That situation was one that would not have been possible without the Bishops’ Wars that preceded it. In the 1630s, Charles’s high-handed approach to politics caused further trouble north of the border, and not just because of the lands he had taken back from the nobility. The Scots were Presbyterian Protestants, and Charles wanted to enforce the same religious practices on them as he supported in England. His attempt to enforce use of the English Book of Common Prayer led to a rebellion by the Scots in 1639, a rebellion which ultimately became known as the Bishops’ Wars.

The king could make the English Parliament go away, but he could not do the same for the Scottish rebellion. Many Scottish soldiers were veterans of the bitter religious fighting in Europe, which was then in the middle of the Thirty Years War. After they beat the English at the Battle of Newburn on August 28, 1640 and occupied northern England, Charles was forced to make a humiliating peace. Adding insult to injury, he had to summon Parliament to raise money he had promised to the Scots in return for an end to the war. In return for the funds he so desperately needed, Parliament forced Charles to accept measures that prevented him from dissolving Parliament, as well as the execution of one of his key advisors and other measures loathsome to the monarch. Less than two years later, the First English Civil War would commence.

The Bishops’ Wars: The History of the Religious Conflicts that Engulfed Britain and Led to the First English Civil War examines one of the most tumultuous periods in England’s history.