The Parliament

The Parliament was an elected organization set up by the
king to manage the country to save the King the effort.
Although officially ruled by the King, Parliament was
increasing it’s power so rapidly that by the 1600s it could
no longer be relied on to do what the King wanted. King
Charles 1st came into conflict with his Parliament in 1629
when he ordered Parliament to raise taxes and it refused.
His response was to abolish Parliament and he ruled
Parliament on his own for 11 years. However, the people
didn’t support him and he ran short of money so he had to
reinstate Parliament in 1640.

However, conflict broke out again in 1642 when Charles
tried to have 5 members of Parliament arrested who had
been actively disagreeing with his policies. The MPs fled
into the back of the streets of London but when the King
went after them, the citizens expelled him angrily from their
city. This was a direct violation by the people of the
supreme power of the King and marked the beginning of
the English Civil War.

Those English who supported the King (the Cavaliers) had
support in north England and Wales and the
parliamentarians (Roundheads) had support in the rest of
England. Despite the fairly even start, however, the
Cavaliers were fought back and in 1646 the Roundheads
forced the King to surrender. However, at the cease fire
negotiations Charles would not agree to the Roundhead
terms and after a stalemate the war erupted again in 1648.
Once again the Cavaliers were defeated but this time he
Roundheads did not accept a surrender and instead
captured the and executed Charles in 1649. England now
had no King. For the next 11 years was a Republic. It was
ruled from 1633 to 1658 by a general named Oliver
Cromwell, who was a fundamental Protestant but an
extremely cruel man. He was given the title ‘Lord Protector
of the Commonwealth of England’, but he had been active
in Ireland long before he undertook that role.

In 1641, just before the Civil War, the Irish of Ulster had
begun an uprising and attacked the planters who had
settled 30 years before. Between 10,000 and 15,000
Protestant planters were murdered by the Irish at places
such as Portadown. Due to the war, the English did nothing
about this and the death-toll became heavily exaggerated
over time. In 1649, after the Civil War had ended,
Cromwell landed at Dublin with 12,000 men with the
intention of punishing those who had uprisen. He first
attacked Drogheda and captured it, slaughtering over 3000
people. He then marched on Wexford town and massacred
several hundred people there. The surrounding towns of
Cork, Bandon, Kinale, and Youghal surrendered.
Cromwell left Ireland in 1650 having dealt a severe blow to
the uprising Irish.

A problem of equal concern to Cromwell, however, was
the fact that most of the soldiers in the Roundhead army still
needed payment for their time in the Civil War, but
Parliament had no money to give to them. So Cromwell
decided to pay them in land. He forcibly moved thousands
of Irish from their homes in Munster and Leinster and
resettled them in countries Clare, Galaway, Mayo and
Rescommon. This was by far the poorest land in the
Ireland and, as well as this, they were not allowed to live
within 3 miles of the coast. This strip, called the ‘Mile
Lane’ was given to Cromwell’s soldiers. In 1652 the newly
cleared land in Munster and Lienster was given to
Protestants in what was called the ‘Cromwellian
Settlement’. There was now no part of Ireland where
Catholics owned more than ½ of the land. The main reason
for this was Cromwell’s belief in fundamental Protestantism
which made him hate Catholics. He claimed to be acting on
God’s behalf and expelled about 1000 Catholic priests
from Ireland.

In 1660, Cromwell died and was buried in state in
Westminster Abbey in London. However, unable to find a
suitable successor as Lord Protector, Parliament reinstated
the monarchy, with reduced powers, with King Charles II.
Although Charles relaxed the anti-Catholic laws that
Cromwell had introduced, he didn’t make any attempts to
reverse the land confiscations in Ireland. He had
Cromwell’s body exhumed, hanged, decapitated and the
body thrown in a latrine [toilet]. His head was put on a post
where it remained until a storm finally dislodged it over 50
years later.

Category: History