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Parliaments, 1640-1660

Civil War, Commonwealth and Protectorate

Eleven years after he dissolved Parliament following the rows surrounding the levying of Tunnage and Poundage and religion in the 1628-9 Parliament, Charles I was finally compelled to summon Parliament again as a result of his failure to crush rebellion in Scotland. But he found the Short Parliament of May 1640 unprepared to grant supply as swiftly as he had hoped. The decision to dissolve it and fight the Scots without parliamentary finance, however, proved misguided, for a second confrontation left them the clear victors, and Charles forced to summon a new Parliament to meet in November, to become the notorious Long Parliament which was not finally dissolved until 1660.

Charles I was not in a position to resist the demands of reformers within Parliament in 1640-1, having to accept the attainder and execution of his key minister, the earl of Strafford, and to assent to a series of Acts making changes to state institutions, requiring that Parliaments be held every three years and insisting that Parliament could not be dissolved without its own assent. But Charles did find the political strength to draw the line at demands to intervene in the control of the militia, and the reformation of the Church helped to divide the unity of reformers within Parliament. The result was the outbreak of Civil War in 1642.

After the King's defeat by a newly powerful parliamentary army, Parliament remained divided by tensions over religion and threatened by the religious views and the political ambition and muscle of the army's officers. An army coup in 1648, Pride's Purge, removed from the Long Parliament those determined to continue negotiations with the King, leaving a smaller group of Members, nicknamed the 'Rump' Parliament. The Rump executed the King in January 1649 and declared a Republic, only to be itself removed by the Army, now led by Cromwell, in April 1653.

Cromwell was anxious to legitimise and domesticate his rule through Parliaments, but his relationship with those he called into existence echoed, in some respects, that of Charles I. Barebone's Parliament, which met in July 1653, was a nominated assembly, much mocked for its relatively humble Members, a