Long Parliament, 3 November 1640-1660

Parliament called by Charles I in the aftermath of defeat in the Second Bishop's War, and which remained in existence through the Civil War and the Commonwealth. The early actions of the Long Parliament had general support, even from many who later became Royalist generals. Ship-money was abolished, with the support of Sir Ralph Hopton, while Sir Kenelm Digby was one of many the many who opposed Thomas Wentworth, earl of Strafford, Charles's most powerful counciller, while Edward Hyde was key in the removal of the Star Chamber, while nobody objected to the Triennial Act, which provided for the automatic recall of Parliament every three years, even if the King did not call it. However, Charles soon found himself facing an organised opposition, centred on Pym and Hampden, who had managed to ensure the re-election of most members of the Short Parliament, and who saw the Scottish army, now being paid by the English, as their tool. This group was largely Puritan, hostile to Strafford and to the bishops, and was soon to break the unity of Parliament.

The split was first caused by the trial of Strafford, who after a farcical trial which ended in Strafford being convicted, and on 12 May 1641 he was executed, something Charles regretted ever after. For much of the rest of the year, the religious issue split Parliament, but the deadlock was broken by events in Scotland, where there was a brief threat of a Royalist revival and Ireland, where a rebellion broke out after years of mismanagement. The news from Scotland triggered the creation of the Grand Remonstrance, which proposed Parliamentary control of the King's ministers, and a general reform of the Church. The Remonstrance passed by 11 votes, but was quickly rejected by Charles who had a solid base of legality in this case. However, he now made his great mistake. On 3 January 1642, he attempted to impeach for treason five members of the commons, including Pym and Hampden. The following day, Charles, at the head of a group of soldiers, entered the Commons chamber searching for the five members, who had already fled. This act reunited Parliament, as well as turning London firmly against Charles. Both sides now concentrated on gaining control of the militia. Parliament issued the Militia Bill, claiming the sole right to organise militias, while Charles made similar claims. War was close, and on 22 August Charles raised his standard at Nottingham.

Once the fighting started, the Long Parliament began to lose it's importance, not helped by bitter faction fighting, which often threatened the conduct of the war, culminating in the Self Denying Ordinance of December 1645, which forbade any member of Parliament from holding office in the New Model Army or the Navy, while the rise of the New Model slowly eclipsed all other sources of power in the country. Worse was to come once the war was won. In 1648, Pride's Purge removed any MP who opposed the Army. The remaining Rump Parliament established the Commonwealth, and convicted Charles I. Even the Rump was eventually dismissed by Cromwell (1653), who ruled without it for the rest of his life. Only in 1659 was the Long Parliament recalled, now with it's full membership, only to vote itself out of existence (1660) to allow the election of the Convention Parliament, which restored Charles II.

cover The English Civil War , Richard Holmes & Peter Young, an early work by one of the country's best known military historians, this is a superb single volume history of the war, from its causes to the last campaigns of the war and on to the end of the protectorate.
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See Also
Books on the English Civil War
Subject Index: English Civil War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J. (13 April 2001), Long Parliament, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/concepts_long_parliament.html

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