Traditionally most royal families justify their rule by "divine right". When and how did this stop being the case for the British royal family?
(This question evolved a lot, check edits to get a better picture and understand the context of the first two answers better)
As mentioned already by Mark C. Wallace, one of the key aspects of the English Civil War was the divine right of the Monarchy.
The Bill of Rights Act 1689 established that the succession to the throne is regulated by Parliament and not by any divine right.
The following lines state that James the II abdicated the government and left the throne vacant when he fled the country.
Recital that the late King James II. had abdicated the Government, and that the Throne was vacant.
The Bill of Rights then went on to declare William and Mary the King and Queen of the United Kingdom.
Acceptance of the Crown. The Two Houses to sit. Subjects' Liberties to be allowed, and Ministers hereafter to serve according to the same. William and Mary declared King and Queen. Limitation of the Crown. Papists debarred the Crown. Every King, &c. shall make the Declaration of 30 Car. II. If under 12 Years old, to be done after Attainment thereof. King's and Queen's Assent
Furthermore, the supremacy of Parliament was established after the signing into law of the Bill of Rights Act 1689. The bill set in stone the sovereignty of Parliament by making a number of things illegal, in direct reference to the actions of King James II.
by the Assistance of diverse evill Councellors Judges and Ministers imployed by him did endeavour to subvert and extirpate the Protestant Religion and the Lawes and Liberties of this Kingdome.
The Bill sets out that King James the Second subverted the laws the the Kingdom in a number of ways that included keeping a standing army without the consent of Parliament, dispensing and suspending laws without the consent of Parliament and preventing the free election of members of Parliament.
For the purposes of this answer the following two parts of the Bill of Rights are most important:
That the pretended Power of Suspending of Laws or the Execution of Laws by Regall Authority without Consent of Parlyament is illegall.
Late dispensing Power.
That the pretended Power of Dispensing with Laws or the Execution of Laws by Regall Authoritie as it hath beene assumed and exercised of late is illegall.
These two parts of the Bill of Rights Act 1689 establish that the Regent cannot legally suspend or execute laws without the consent of Parliament.
As so neatly summarised on the Royal website
The Bill of Rights Act 1689 set out the foundations of constitutional monarchy. Rights obtained by Parliament included:
Freedom from Royal interference with the law;
Freedom from taxation by Royal prerogative
Freedom to petition the King
Freedom to elect members of Parliament without interference from the Sovereign.
The full Bill of Rights Act 1689 (Recorded as the Bill of Rights 1688) can be read at Legislation.gov.uk.
The Bill Of Rights act was recently amended when the Succession to the Crown Act 2013 was passed into law. One of the key parts of the Succession to the Crown Act was to allow the first born child to ascend to the throne regardless of gender.
More information regarding the succession of the British throne is summarised here.
No the English Royal family does not claim divine right. One of the key issues of the English Civil War was the Stuart claim to divine right.
Divine right was refuted first when they cut off the head of the last monarch to assert it, and then again in the classic Reflections on the Revolution in France. I don't have that work with me right now, but it very solidly makes the point that ultimate power in Great Britain is vested in law.
This Declaration of Right (the act of the 1st of William and Mary, sess. 2, ch. 2) is the corner-stone of our constitution, as reinforced, explained, improved, and in its fundamental principles for ever settled. It is called “An Act for declaring the rights and liberties of the subject, and for settling the succession of the crown.” You will observe, that these rights and this succession are declared in one body, and bound indissolubly together. Reflections on the French Revolution
Further in the same work, Burke quotes the Declaration of Right,
“The Lords spiritual and temporal, and Commons, do, in the name of all the people aforesaid, most humbly and faithfully submit themselves, their heirs and posterities for ever; and do faithfully promise that they will stand to maintain, and defend their said Majesties, and also the limitation of the crown, herein specified and contained, to the utmost of their powers,” &c. &c.
Note with emphasis the limitations of the crown.
When and how did the British Monarchy stop claiming Divine Right?
Just to be contrarian - and despite the accepted answer - I don't think that they have.
Information about legend: ELIZABETH II · DEI · GRA · REG · FID · DEF
This legend has been displayed on British coinage since 2015 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II
and a lot earlier too
That is an abbreviation (not a lot of space on coins) for
Dei gratia, Regina, fidi defensorwhich means
by the grace of God, queen, defender of the faith, which reeks, to me, of divine right.
I would have to dig around to find when that was first added to the coinage, or maybe that ought to be a separate question.
Tl;dr: IMO, never/not yet.
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Monarchy, political system based upon the undivided sovereignty or rule of a single person. The term applies to states in which supreme authority is vested in the monarch, an individual ruler who functions as the head of state and who achieves his or her position through heredity. Most monarchies allow only male succession, usually from father to son.
What is monarchy?
Monarchy is a political system in which supreme authority is vested in the monarch, an individual ruler who functions as head of state. It typically acts as a political-administrative organization and as a social group of nobility known as “court society.”
What is the difference between monarchy and democracy?
Monarchy is a political system based on the sovereignty of a single ruler. Democracy, a term that means “rule by the people,” is a political system in which laws, policies, leaders, and major state undertakings are decided directly or indirectly by the citizens.
What is the divine right to rule in a monarchy?
The divine right to rule, also known as the “divine right of kings,” is a political doctrine asserting that monarchs derive their authority from God and cannot be held accountable for their actions by human means. The divine-right theory can be traced to the medieval European conception that God awarded earthly power to the political authority and spiritual power to church authorities.
What is a constitutional monarchy?
A constitutional monarchy is a political system in which a monarch shares power with a constitutionally organized government. Monarchs in constitutional monarchies act as symbolic heads of state while waiving most political power. Countries governed by constitutional monarchies today include the United Kingdom, Belgium, Norway, Japan, and Thailand.
Backwards Britain: Why It’s Time to Abolish the Monarchy
Abolishing the monarchy would not erase Britain’s class divide overnight, but a republican form of government would at least be able to lay claim to the principles of equality and democracy.
The United Kingdom has more than its fair share of political problems. Three and a half years of acrimonious debate over the European Question—exacerbated by two rancorous general election campaigns—has left Britain with deep social and political divides. The 48 percent who voted to remain inside the European Union (EU) are understandably resentful at the 52 percent who are jubilant at now having left. It sometimes seems as though the very soul of Britain is up for grabs. Will it be an open or closed society? Cosmopolitan or intolerant? Internationalist or introverted?
How the British choose to associate with their European neighbors—and how they choose not to—will go a long way toward providing answers to these questions. But there is another relationship that says more about Britain’s national character than EU membership ever will—that is, Britain’s relationship with its monarchy. As Britons ponder what sort of future they want for their country, they would do well to consider abolishing this corrosive and anachronistic institution.
The most offensive feature of monarchy, of course, is that it cements privilege at the top of state and society. By definition, royalty is an advertisement that “pedigree” still matters in Britain—which, of course, it does even in contexts far removed from royal life. Abolishing the monarchy would not erase Britain’s class divide overnight, but a republican form of government would at least be able to lay claim to the principles of equality and democracy.
Monarchy, on the other hand, precludes equality even as a pretense. There is nothing remotely egalitarian about a system that guarantees, by law, that one family will receive taxpayer-funded grants, literal palaces in which to live, special protections from criminal justice, barely disguised political influence, and the deference of elected politicians. The whole point is that some people are born different—and better—than others. This is a repugnant doctrine.
The state-sponsored extravagance of royalty would be bad enough if members of the Royal Family could be trusted to set a serene example for “ordinary” people to follow. It is made much worse by the fact that, in reality, the royals behave badly. As the great constitutional theorist Walter Bagehot once wrote, “a constitutional prince is the man who is most tempted to pleasure, and the least forced to business.” After all, an idle mind is the devil’s playground—and members of the Royal Family are idle as an occupation.
To be sure, senior royals may choose to devote their entire lives to noble acts of charitable work. But they might equally choose not to. And whenever a royal misdeed is committed, it is a fact of modern life that such news will be plastered all over the front pages of tabloid newspapers. Famous headlines include royals donning Nazi uniforms, cavorting with alleged pedophiles, and injuring members of the public in car accidents. At best, the House of Windsor is a group of people afflicted with the usual flaws. More likely, it is an institution that predisposes its members to ill behavior.
The British are thus left with the worst of both worlds—a privileged coterie of royals who use their money and influence not to set a high example but to embarrass the country and provide endless fodder for gossip magazines.
This will only get worse when Queen Elizabeth II dies, and Prince Charles accedes to the throne. For years, it has been relatively easy for the press to show deference to an elderly lady. It will be much harder to respect a man who once likened himself to a female hygiene product, talks to his plants, has interfered in official government business, and is generally regarded as a figure of fun. Charles I was beheaded for going to war against his own people. Charles III won’t be treated quite so harshly, but he might well be forced to abdicate under the weight of relentless mockery.
Despite all this, it is unlikely that the abolition of the monarchy will be high on the agenda anytime soon. Despite its many flaws, the crown is a stubborn institution. Part of the explanation for its stickiness is that royalty inculcates habits of social conservatism in British society. For while citizens of the UK might no longer be classified as formal “subjects” of the reigning monarch, the edifice of monarchy casts a long shadow of deference that is difficult to escape.
Consider the popular response to the recent announcement from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex that the pair would like to step back from royal duties, relocate their family to North America, and pursue financial independence. The initial reaction was one of surprise and indignation—sheer disbelief that Harry and Meghan should want to retreat from public life and deny the British people their rightful window into the couple’s everyday lives. The umbrage was particularly acute given that the public purse had just doled out £2.4 million refurbishing the Sussex’s residence, Frogmore Cottage, which sits on the grounds of Windsor Castle.
Having accepted money from the public purse, the argument went, there could be no question of the Sussexes pursuing an independent life. The implied assumption was that the British taxpayer had purchased a controlling stake in the lives of Harry and Meghan it was not for the Sussexes to make decisions for their own family!
This was a telling insight into how the British people view their relationship with the Royal Family—not much dulled by the fact that, in the end, the Sussexes were “allowed” to retreat from their public duties after agreeing to an exit plan with other senior royals. In a normal society, anyone should be free to plot their own course nobody’s life ought to be subject to public control. But in monarchical Britain, oppressive social expectation is not unusual. Abandoning one’s station is to be frowned upon, whether rich or poor.
For a long time, it was possible to argue that the monarchy should be retained because abolition would involve major constitutional upheaval. But leaving the EU has already opened the door to “root and branch” reform of how Britain governs itself. Even Scottish independence and Irish unification are now realistic prospects—foreshadowing, perhaps, the breakup of the British state. In this context, abolishing the monarchy alongside other constitutional reforms can be seen to make a great deal of sense, especially if the UK is to fragment into two or more entities.
Exiting the EU was supposed to presage the emergence of a Global Britain—confident, ambitious, cultured, and “cool.” But as the Second Elizabethan Era draws to a close, it is now painfully clear that some Britons have their gazes fixed inward and backward. There is a risk of atrophy. To push Britain forward, the country ought to consider ditching its heaviest anchor to a past best left behind. What better way to “take back control” than to become a republic?
Peter Harris is an assistant professor of political science at Colorado State University. You can follow him on Twitter:@ipeterharris.
The main negative aspect of this doctrine is that it gave the kings carte blanche to rule as they wished. This made it bad for the people who were ruled. Since they were appointed by God, kings did not (they felt) have to give any thought to what anyone on Earth wanted.
“Divine right of kings” is Scriptural, for we can find it in Scripture. However, it is not dispensational. He is “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:16) because He will be over all kings and all lords.
|Name of Monarch||Birth of Monarch||Death of Monarch||Reign of Monarch|
|Edward III (first reign)||13th November 1312||21st June 1377||24th January 1340 - 8th May 1360|
|Edward III (second reign)||13th November 1312||21st June 1377||Sometime 1369 - 21st June 1377|
|Richard II||6th January 1367||14th February 1400||21st/22nd June 1377 - 30th September 1399|
|Henry IV||15th April 1367||20th March 1413||30th September 1399 - 20th March 1413|
|Henry V||9th August 1386||31st August 1422||20th March 1413 - 21st May 1420|
|Name of Monarch||Birth of Monarch||Death of Monarch||Reign of Monarch|
|Henry V||9th August 1386||31st August 1422||21st May 1420 - 3st August 1422|
|Henry VI||6th December 1421||21st May 1471||31st August 1422 - 21st October 1422|
The first English monarch to completely rule France for majority of his reign.
Henry VI was made to be successor of French king Charles VI and on October 21st 1422 took up the position of the French king. He was said to rule the whole of France but in reality only ruled small parts of the north. Charles VII was later crowned as king of France, son of Charles VI starting a small line of disputed monarchs and the English, later British monarch claiming the throne of France for another 350 years.
|Name of Monarch||Birth of Monarch||Death of Monarch||Reign of Monarch|
|Henry VI (first reign)||6th December 1421||21st May 1471||21st October 1422 - 4th March 1461|
|Henry VI (second reign)||6th December 1421||21st May 1471||31st October 1470 - 11th April 1471|
Edward IV also claimed the throne of France during Henry VI's absence from the English throne and his claims happened in between Henry's so reign of the monarch may not be in perfect order for this list. The claim was of France but really monarchs only ruled Calais due to the terrible general skills of the Duke of Somerset, a close friend of Margaret of Anjou and Henry VI.
|Name of Monarch||Birth of Monarch||Death of Monarch||Reign of Monarch|
|Edward IV of England (first reign)||28th April 1442||9th April 1483||4th March 1461 - 31st October 1470|
|Edward IV of England (second reign)||28th April 1442||9th April 1483||11th April 1471 - 9th April 1483|
|Edward V of England||2nd November 1470||After 26th June 1483||9th April 1483 - 26th June 1483 (deposed)|
|Richard III of England||2nd October 1452||22nd August 1485||26th June 1483 - 22nd August 1485 (killed in battle)|
|Henry VII of England||28th January 1457||21st April 1509||22nd August 1485 - 21st April 1509|
|Henry VIII of England||28th June 1491||28th January 1547||21st April 1509 - 28th January 1547|
|Edward VI of England||12th October 1537||6th July 1553||28th January 1547 - 6th July 1553|
|Jane of England (Lady Jane Grey)||Around 1536-1537||12th February 1554||6th/10th July 1553 - 19th July 1553 (deposed, then executed)|
|Mary I of England||18th February 1516||17th November 1558||19th July 1553 - 7th January 1558|
Phillip II of Spain/Phillip I of England who ruled with Mary did claim Calais and partially rule it but he is considered a co-king of the Tudor dynasty and will not be counted as a legitimate Calais ruler or English king and more of a co-king/consort.
|Name of Monarch||Birth of Monarch||Death of Monarch||Reign of Monarch|
|Mary I of England||18th February 1516||17th November 1558||7th January 1558 - 17th November 1558|
|Elizabeth I of England||7th September 1533||24th March 1603||17th November 1558 - 24th March 1603|
English and Scottish claims refer to claims made after the 1603 union between the English monarch and the Scottish monarch when Scottish king James VI became English king James I uniting the kingdoms under one king. However they remained geo-politically separate until the 1707 Acts of Union which united Scotland and England (including the Principality of Wales) into one nation now named Great Britain as of 1707, later the United Kingdom in 1800, the year George III dropped his claim.
A brief history of England
When it comes to understanding the history of England, it's often difficult to know when you should be using the terms 'England' or 'Britain'. From the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons into the Romans' 'Britannia' in the early fifth century AD, to the unions that previously bound the present-day countries of England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland, British history is certainly complex. Writing for History Extra, Dr Sean Lang separates the history of England from the history of the British Isles.
This competition is now closed
Published: January 23, 2019 at 5:14 pm
To annoy the Scots, Welsh or Irish, say “England” when you mean Britain. To annoy historians, say “Britain” when you mean England. Getting the distinction right may be difficult – but it’s important.
The original English were Angles, Saxons and Jutes of northern Germany and the Baltic region, who took over the Roman province of Britannia as the Roman empire collapsed. The indigenous ‘Britons’ maintained their hold in Wales and Cornwall, as did the Picts in northern Scotland, but otherwise the whole island – including the south of modern-day Scotland – was overrun by these ‘Anglo-Saxons’.
In due course they adopted Christianity, thereby tying their fortunes directly to the Roman Church. They also developed a flourishing and wealthy culture which attracted the unwelcome attention of the ‘Viking’ (pirate) peoples of Scandinavia, who descended on ‘Angle-land’ (i.e. England) and for a time conquered and ruled the northern part of it. The wars of resistance against the Vikings helped unite the English kingdoms and eventually produced the first Saxon king of all England, Æthelstan.
The English language
Anglo-Saxon England developed its own distinctive language and highly sophisticated culture, until in 1066 it was attacked and overrun by Normans from northern France. For some 300 years after that, England was tied closely to France, with a French-speaking monarchy and ruling class. The English became a subservient people in their own land. Over time, however, these French overlords became ‘anglicised’ through intermarriage with the English, and – with some French additions – English became the common language of all classes. It was these French ‘English’ rulers who launched the successful ‘English’ conquests of Ireland and Wales in Scotland, however, King Robert the Bruce managed to resist invasion and Scotland remained a separate kingdom.
Medieval England was a wealthy country, flourishing on trade in fine woollen cloth and notable for its vibrant enthusiasm for the Catholic Church. The kings and lords of medieval England maintained substantial lands in northern and western France, and in the 14th century King Edward III went so far as to claim the French crown for himself.
He did, indeed, have a strong claim, and the kings of England fought a long series of wars in France – known as the Hundred Years War – to maintain their right to the French throne until eventually the French, inspired by Joan of Arc, forced them in the middle of the 15th century. This disaster, which predictably produced angry recriminations among the English nobility, led to a very bloody civil war – later named the Wars of the Roses – in which rival branches of the royal house fought for the throne. The eventual – and unlikely – winner was Henry Tudor, who seized the throne in 1485 as Henry VII, and spent his reign strengthening his hold on it.
The Tudors were Welsh by origin and it was Henry Tudor’s son, Henry VIII, who incorporated Wales into England, though it retained its distinctive language and identity. It was also Henry VIII who, in the course of his celebrated dispute with the papacy about the status of his marriage to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, pulled England out of the Church of Rome.
This defining moment in English history was deeply traumatic for the English, who had long proudly maintained their ‘special relationship’ with the papacy. It was especially felt when the break with Rome led to first Lutheran and then Calvinist Protestantism putting down roots in England, especially in the larger towns and in the south and east of the kingdom. This religious turmoil culminated, under the reign of Elizabeth I, in the establishment of a hybrid ‘Church of England’, which maintained the structures, hierarchy and fabric of the Roman church, but combined them with a clearly Protestant theology. The Church of England also covered Wales in Ireland, however, it was confined to the English settler population. Scotland had its own separate Presbyterian (ie Calvinist) Church.
Under the Tudors, England developed as a highly successful state, with its government heavily centralised on London, which provided close links to the continent. The English language developed into the sophisticated poetry of Shakespeare and, as English people began to settle overseas, it began its spread into today’s global language. The Tudor period also saw the growth of the power of the English parliament and a closer, more interdependent relationship between England and Scotland.
Parliament, which alone had the power to make ‘statute’ law, was the body that gave legal status to the Tudor religious changes. By Elizabeth’s reign (which began on 17 November 1558), parliament was claiming an even greater role for itself in government, including the exclusive right to impose taxes. Elizabeth managed to avoid a serious clash with parliament but when she died childless (in 1603), the throne of England passed to the Stuart king of Scotland, James VI, who thereby became King James I of England.
The English Civil War
James originally hoped to combine the kingdoms of England and Scotland in one kingdom of ‘Great Britain’, but the idea found no support. The Stuarts’ claim to rule by ‘divine right’ [deriving their right from God], with no earthly restrictions on their powers, led inevitably to bitter arguments between Charles I and the English parliament and eventually, in 1642, to armed conflict. This English Civil War was part of a wider conflict that included a religious civil war in Scotland and a major Catholic rebellion in Ireland.
Parliament triumphed, defeating Charles’s supporters in both England and Scotland. The king was put on trial and executed (in January 1649) the monarchy and House of Lords were abolished and out of the confusion that followed Oliver Cromwell emerged as ‘Lord Protector’ of an English Republic. Cromwell also forced through a union with Scotland and imposed his control on Ireland by brute force. However, after he died (in 1658) there was a power vacuum that was eventually filled by the restoration of the monarchy, in the person of King Charles II.
Parliament’s triumph over the Crown was sealed in 1688, when it invited a Dutch invasion to topple the Catholic son of Charles II, King James II, in what was dubbed the ‘Glorious Revolution’. This relatively smooth English coup had to be imposed on Ireland and the Scottish highlands by brute force. Catholic Ireland was punished for its support for King James by being kept in perpetual poverty. However, when Scotland also fell into financial collapse, thanks to the failure of its scheme to establish a colony at Darien in Central America, it sought rescue in 1707 through an Act and Treaty of Union with the much wealthier and more prosperous English state. This union produced a new kingdom, to be called ‘Great Britain’.
The British flag
It was in the century that followed the union that the English began to promote the creation of a new ‘British’ identity, with a British flag, British patriotic songs and iconography, and, increasingly, a British overseas empire. In 1801 another Act of Union brought Ireland into this ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland’, as it was then officially called. As mechanised industrial production began to dominate the British economy in the 19th century, this new British state rapidly became the wealthiest and most powerful nation on the planet.
Industrial England remained by far the largest, most heavily populated and wealthiest part of the kingdom, though that did not stop the Victorians from encouraging a heavily idealised image of a rural England of picturesque country villages. They also often incorrectly referred to the whole kingdom as ‘England’, a habit which continued well into the 20th century, though it was also they who first marketed (and often invented) much of the ‘traditional’ cultures of Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
The main challenge to the unity of the kingdom came from Irish nationalism, which was eventually able to take advantage of the situation at the end of the First World War in 1918, to stage a successful war of independence [fought 1919–21] six northern counties in Ulster, however, opted to remain part of the United Kingdom.
Although the Scots and Welsh retained a strong sense of national identity, the experience of two world wars gave all the British a strong sense of unity against the German threat. It was only after the wars, as Britain’s empire collapsed and Britain sank in global power and importance, that Scottish and Welsh nationalism began to assert itself, with calls for devolved political power. These led, in 1999, to the creation of a Scottish Parliament and a Welsh Assembly. This led to a revival of English national feeling, often expressed through sport, even though the population of England was by then radically transformed by immigration – first from Commonwealth countries and then from Eastern Europe. Britain’s entry in 1973 into the European Economic Community (now the EU) had also raised questions about the nature of British identity, that led eventually to the Brexit vote in the 2016 referendum.
England remains by far the largest part of the United Kingdom, though its identity and culture are highly diverse, with marked regional, ethnic and even class differences in voice, temperament and taste. London has grown so dominant that it is almost a separate entity from the rest of the country. Devolution has made the Westminster parliament a strange hybrid of a British and an English legislature. It remains incorrect to call Britain ‘England’, though many English people – as well as many foreigners – still do.
Dr Sean Lang is a senior lecturer in history at Anglia Ruskin University.
Why the English Civil Wars are still important today
A defeated Charles I is led to his execution by parliamentarians in 1649
On 22 August 1642, 376 years ago today, war broke out across the British Isles. The country was torn apart, pitting supporters of the king against the parliamentarians.
By the time the dust settled, just over nine years later, hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians were dead. The parliamentarians set about deconstructing the very framework of English society under the guidance of Oliver Cromwell, the actions of whom changed the political landscape of England for good.
Yet despite their importance, the English Civil Wars - often referred to as a singular “Civil War” - have been largely consigned to history. For example, the national curriculum in England does not feature any compulsory teachings on the conflict.
But debate continues to rage between historians not only about the outcome of the conflict, but on the nature of the conflict itself. Was it a class war? Was it a revolution? And, most importantly, do its effects still matter?
As the UK hurtles toward Brexit, some historians have spotted a number of intriguing parallels between the Civil Wars and the present day. In the past two years, questions have arisen over the sovereignty of parliament, the role of the UK in Europe, and the relationship between England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland – all of which paved the way for the Civil Wars, and all of which were altered for ever in its wake.
“The lingering influence of the Civil Wars within modern English life is part of something much wider in England’s culture,” writes Martin Kettle in The Guardian. “Few countries are more historically minded in some respects than England. Yet English history – what it was, what is important in it, how it shapes us, and how it is taught – remains a political battleground.”
Fought from 1642 to 1651, the English Civil Wars involved King Charles I battling Parliament for control of the English government.
The two sides disagreed over the role of the monarchy and the rights of Parliament, with Charles believing in the “divine right of kings”, which stated that his right to rule came directly from God.
“During the early phases of the war, the Parliamentarians expected to retain Charles as king, but with expanded powers for Parliament,” ThoughtCo says. “Though the Royalists won early victories, the Parliamentarians ultimately triumphed.”
As the conflict progressed, Charles was executed by the parliamentarians and a republic was formed, known as the Commonwealth of England.
This state later became the Protectorate under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell, who subsequently sailed for Ireland to eliminate anti-parliamentarian resistance and occupy the country - one of the most controversial events in British history and regarded by some modern historians as a genocide.
Charles II was invited to take the throne in 1660 under what has become known as the Restoration, but Cromwell ensured that no monarch would be able to rule without the consent of Parliament. The war had ended the notion of the divine right of kings and laid the groundwork for the modern UK parliament and monarchy.
Why is it still important today?
Aside from the fact that the parliamentarians laid the foundations for modern monarchy-government relations, the English Civil Wars left deep wounds that took centuries to heal, according to historians.
In some cases, parallels can be drawn between the Civil Wars and current wealth inequality in the UK, exemplified by the riches of the royal family.
“The events of the mid-17th century cannot be commemorated without raising uncomfortable questions about hereditary monarchy and, by extension, the nature of British democracy,” historian John Rees writes in History Today. He argues that the royal family “represents an ideological and customary habituation to tradition, however ‘invented’, to social hierarchy and to disparity in wealth and ownership”.
Rees adds: “Since monarchist views are widely regarded as an essential part of conservative (as well as Conservative) thinking, the past is unavoidably seen as a left-right dividing line. One only has to remember the furore over whether the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was singing the national anthem heartily enough to see how this plays in contemporary politics.”
Others argue that Brexit reflects divides left over by the Civil Wars.
“If you compare the areas of England that supported the King with those that voted for Brexit they are startlingly similar,” Reaction.life reports. “In particular, the South West, Wales, the North and Lincolnshire all supported the King. So did Kent, although it was occupied by Parliament throughout the war. All of these areas voted overwhelmingly for Brexit.”
Yet perhaps the most keenly felt parallels can be felt in the ongoing Irish border dispute and England’s fragmented relationship with Scotland.
“The Scottish Government is now forging ahead with its own EU Withdrawal Bill – despite being told it is beyond the Scottish Parliament’s powers,” writes Professor Stefan Collignon for the London School of Economics. “A constitutional conflict seems inevitable.
“And the danger of locking people up behind borders is nowhere more obvious than in Ireland. The UK government has repeatedly stated that it does not want trade barriers between Northern Ireland and Britain, but a hard Brexit is simply not compatible with that option.
“Scotland and Ireland have saved England from itself in the 17th century. It may well turn out, once again, that Scotland and Ireland will keep Britain open and defeat little England.”
How can the Queen be black?
Another lesser known but widely documented fact online is that Queen Charlotte (1744 - 1818) was also black.
Princess Sophia Charlotte was born into a German Royal family, Mecklenburg-Strelitz, and was a direct line descendant of the Portuguese Royal House, Margarita de Castro y Sousa, which was the African branch of the family.
Charlotte became Queen when she married George III of England in 1761 when she was only 17 years old.
Royal portrait artists of the day (photography hadn&apost yet been invented) followed orders to make her look white, if ugly. In fact she was quite infamously ugly.
Looks aren&apost everything. This amazing women bore 15 children in her lifetime, 13 of whom survived to adulthood, and, as a keen botanist, founded Kew Gardens. She was also the first Royal to live in Buckingham House, bought for her by a devoted King George III, which later became Buckingham Palace, the current Queen&aposs official residence.
Queen Charlotte, the grandmother of Queen Victoria, also had a keen interest in America&aposs politic and the ongoing War of Independence. Slavery of African American blacks was at its peak, and while Queen Charlotte was forbidden to take part in politics, it is widely believed that letters she wrote in support of the abolition of slavery helped sway some senior and powerful figures.
It is unknown how many previous kings and queens of Europe are black or have black ancestors. Most of Queen Victoria&aposs descendants are still Royal figureheads in Europe.
It was almost by accident that Queen Elizabeth II became queen. Her uncle Edward was next in line, followed by his younger brother, Elizabeth&aposs father Prince Albert. Edward was young and had not yet married when he succeeded to the throne. He abdicated later the same year in order to marry a divorcee, Wallis Simpson, an act that caused a constitutional crisis because the King or Queen of England is also Head of the Church of England who do not recognise divorce.
Prince Albert became King George II, and Princess Elizabeth became heiress presumptive.
While Britain is a multi-racial country, the people were not thought to be ready for a colored Queen, and so the fallacy that she was white continued.
Which British monarch was the last one to have "real power?"
My understanding is that by the reign of Queen Victoria, the monarchy was effectively transformed into a constitutional monarchy. The previous monarch, William IV, had done various things that went against the wishes of Parliament. So. would it be him?
But I've read that the monarchy had largely been reduced much earlier, around the reign of King George. So, I'm a bit lost. Who would effectively be considered the last monarch to have real power?
It mainly depends on your definition of "real power." Going all the way back to the Norman kings of England, there were plenty of examples of monarchs being deposed, murdered or otherwise limited by their subjects. Constitutionally they all had "absolute" power, but their political power varied based on their abilities and circumstances.
The two main events (from an English perspective - my background is English constitutional law) for limiting the powers of the monarch are the execution of King Charles I of England (and of Scotland and Ireland) for treason in 1649 (using the modern calendar - 1648 in the calendar used at the time), and the Glorious Revolution of 1688.
King Charles I had claimed divine, and thus absolute power, but his Parliaments had rejected that, trying to curb his authority in various areas. This led to a series of wars (the Wars of the Three Kingdoms) and King Charles's execution for treason. This is probably the clearest indication of the difference between constitutional and political power constitutionally Charles should have had absolute power, but politically he had none by the end.
After a brief flirt with republicanism, Charles's son was invited back from exile and crowned King Charles II in 1660. In theory, again, Charles II had absolute constitutional power. But his political influence varied depending on the composition of Parliament and how popular he was publicly.
On his death in 1685 his brother James became King James II (King James VII of Scotland). Again, he had absolute power constitutionally, but lost most of his political power, facing two unsuccessful rebellions. He was Catholic and tolerant of Catholics, and the Parliament was primarily Protestant with strong anti-Catholic sentiment. When James finally had a son in 1688, replacing the Protestant, Parliament-friendly heir with a new Catholic one, many in Parliament saw this as unacceptable.
Acting in secret, several Members of Parliament invited William Prince of Orange to invade England and take the throne. William was a grandson of King Charles I, along with his wife (Mary, eldest daughter of James II and presumptive heir before James had a son in 1688), and was Protestant. William invaded in October 1688 with some 11,000 men, and by December James II's rule had collapsed, with anti-Catholic riots breaking out around the country. James II was allowed to escape the country (in theory he slipped past guards, but there is evidence this was deliberate) and William and his wife were crowned joint monarchs, King William III and Mary II.
Having invited the new monarchs to rule, Parliament felt it had the power to impose conditions on them. This included new rules about Catholics (Catholics couldn't vote or hold seats in Parliament), a change to the Coronation Oath adding a part about governing "according to the statutes in parliament agreed on, and the laws and customs of the same", and most importantly passing the Bill of Rights Act. This Act puts in place certain key restrictions on the Royal Prerogative - including preventing the Crown from having a standing army without the consent of Parliament (hence the UK has a British Army, rather than a Royal Army), or from raising taxes without Parliament's consent (which would lead to the phrase "no taxation without representation" later on). Most of the Bill of Rights is still in force in England and Wales (it is dated 1688 but was passed in December 1689 - the difference is due to fun legal fictions and dating differences).
The Bill of Rights and Glorious Revolution are the main switches between an absolute and constitutional monarchy. Further constitutional changes were made with the Act of Settlement in 1701 (deciding who would succeed King William III) and with the Acts of Union in 1707 (joining the Kingdom of England to the Kingdom of Scotland, creating the new Kingdom of Great Britain).
Constitutionally the powers of the Crown have been eroded at ever since then, with more and more laws of Parliament restricting the Royal Prerogative, and any number of court rulings constraining the power (most recently in the Article 50 case, ruling that the Crown couldn't remove the UK from the EU without an Act of Parliament). However politically those powers have shifted almost completely from the monarch to the Government (ministers). Now the Royal Prerogative is used only "on advice of ministers."
This shift happened gradually, and wasn't one way. It depended on the popularity and thus personal political power of each monarch. To use the example of King George III, he often found himself having to "appoint" Prime Ministers he didn't like, because his choices were rejected by Parliament. At some points during his reign he had enough political capital to exert some control, but at others he was effectively powerless (he doesn't seem to have been allowed to intervene in the build-up to the American Revolutionary War, despite a notable petition asking him to - he was also one of the first to accept the new US as an independent country following the end of the war). During the 1780s he had serious mental health problems and was almost 'replaced' by his son before recovering. During the early 1800s, however, the King's popularity increased and he was able to force ministers to drop some plans he disagreed with (such as allowing Catholics into the military to boost recruitment). Unfortunately, at the peak of his political power he started to go blind, deaf, and his mental health problems increased.
King George III was succeeded by his son George IV who interfered even less in politics, and his successor William IV (another son of George III) generally stayed out of politics, although did still appoint a Prime Minister against the wishes of Parliament - the last monarch to do so. He was succeeded by his niece Victoria in 1837.
Declaration of Independence
A Leveller manifesto: the text of a speech by William Everard to the Army 'Grandees' in 1649. © But the elimination of the Levellers as an organised political movement could not obliterate the ideas which they had propagated. From that day to this the same principles of religious and political freedom and equality have reappeared again and again.
When the American Congress set out their political principles in the Declaration of Independence on July 4th 1776, the ideas were taken straight from the English Levellers a century and a quarter before:
We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the governed.
Politics is really about education, not about propaganda.
The Americans had also drawn heavily on the writings of Tom Paine, who was a direct heir of the Leveller tradition, and whose Rights of Man also won him a place in the history of the French Revolution (he was elected a Deputy to the first French Constituent Assembly surmmoned to implement the principles of 'liberty, equality and fraternity'). The English reformers of the early 19th century also drew many of their ideas and language from the Levellers' mix of Christian teaching, religious and political dissent, social equality and democracy. It fired the imagination of generations of Congregationalists, trade union pioneers, early co-operators, Chartists, and socialists.
And so it will always be. For politics is really about education, not about propaganda. It is about teaching more than management. It is about ideas and values and not only about Acts of Parliament, political institutions, and ministerial office. The Levellers, thank God, still teach us that.