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Petition of Right

Petition of Right
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On June 7, 1628, King Charles I signed the Petition of Rights which is still in use today. This petition would be a factor in the English Civil War and inspire the American Constitution. What was this petition? Why was it necessary? What did it change? As we dive into the Petition of Rights, let's explore those questions more.

Petition of Right: Charles I

Before we look at the Petition of Rights, we need a bit of context. King Charles I, was crowned in 1625 when his father, James I, died. Both James and Charles believed in the divine right of kings. This meant that God chose who ruled kingdoms and that it was their God-given right to rule. To go against the king was to go against God. All this, put together, meant that King Charles believed that he didn't need anyone's approval to rule and that whatever he said was absolute.

Petition of Rights Charles I StudySmarterFig 1: Charles I

Charles wanted to be an absolute monarch (also known as royal absolutism). Absolute monarchs were rulers who were able to rule on their own without having to get approval from anyone. It would be challenging to convert England into an absolute monarchy because the king would need to remove the power from the English nobles and commoners.

England had a Parliamentary System of government. The King was mighty, but he still had checks and balances. The king had to have permission from Parliament before doing certain things. It comprised the House of Lords (nobles) and the House of Commons (elected officials). Not everyone was allowed to vote for the elected officials, but this was the only form of representative government they had. One of Charles's challenges was that he could not collect taxes without Parliament's approval.

Absolute Monarch

Absolute Monarchs happened when the ruler had complete control over the nation. The monarch had to control the nobles, religion, and commoners to have absolute control. If Charles were an absolute monarch, he wouldn't need to call Parliament and could rule on his own. The most successful absolute monarch was the French Sun King, Louis XIV.

Charles wanted to go to war with Spain to demonstrate England's power. His advisor, the Duke of Buckingham, assisted with the war planning, which resulted in two costly failures. Parliament wanted the duke replaced with someone who would be better at the role. They agreed to give Charles money if he dismissed the duke. Charles refused and ended the Parliament session.

Charles still needed money, so he forced the nobles and the gentry to give him a loan. Charles threw anyone who refused in jail without giving them a trial. To save money, Charles forced the English to house and fed his soldiers. Parliament feared that Charles was becoming too powerful and that he would turn into an absolute monarch. If that happened, they would lose all of their power.

Petition of Rights: Summary

When Charles called Parliament to aid his war efforts, they proposed the Petition of Rights. The petition referenced rights already established by the Magna Carta, specifically clause 39. Charles reluctantly signed the petition on June 7, 1628, in exchange for Parliament providing money for his war efforts. To avoid the new restrictions placed on the crown, Charles didn't hold another Parliament for eleven years!

What was the Magna Carta?

The English Barons of the 13th Century feuded with King John. They captured London and forced the King to sign the Magna Carta in 1215. This established that the free people were guaranteed a fair trial. It prohibited the king from throwing people in prison without reason. This is called habeas corpus. A free man was also entitled to a jury of his peers.

The Magna Carta did have flaws. For example, unfree people weren't entitled to a fair trial. Most English people were tied to their land and the person who owned the land. Therefore, they weren't free. This document established that the king wasn't above the law. The Magna Carta laid the groundwork for a council that would eventually evolve into Parliament.

1628 Petition of Rights: Basic Principles

  • The King could not raise money without Parliament
  • No one could be imprisoned without cause
  • No more forcing civilians to house soldiers
  • No Marshall law during peacetime

Let's take a closer look at the principles! The king could not raise money without Parliament's approval. This directly responded to Charles's forced loan on the gentry and nobles. Charles also sold properties and monopolies, reinstated outdated taxes, placed taxes on hunting, and more. These were very unpopular taxes, and the petition was meant to end them.

While Charles was over the people, the Bubonic Plague, also known as the Black Plague, resurfaced.

Clause number two, no one could be imprisoned without cause. The Five Knights were men Charles imprisoned without a trial when they refused to give him the loan. They were arrested in 1627 and released the following year. Their case made Parliament realize that habeas corpus, a fair trial, had been denied.

The last two just regarded the rights of citizens. Charles could no longer save money by forcing the English to house and feed his soldiers. Marshall law could not be declared during a time of peace, thus protecting Englishmen from the king.

Petition of Rights Petition of Rights StudySmarterFig 2: Petition of Rights

Petition of Rights Outcome

Charles went into a period that historians refer to as "Personal Rule," where he retreated from politics and spent time with his wife for the next eleven years. He raised money outside of Parliament even though the Petition of Right stated that he could not. Charles argued that the petition was not clear enough, so he could still do it.

He would call Parliament again in 1640 to fund a war. The Parliament went so poorly that it contributed to the start of the English Civil War (1642 - 1641). The war ended with Charles's execution and the banishment of his heir, Charles II. Charles is the only English king to have been beheaded.

Petition of Rights Charles II StudySmarterFig 3: Charles II

Petition of Right Influence

The Petition of Rights is a highly influential piece of legislation. It is still enforced in England today. The petition also influenced the American Constitution because Americans liked that it gave political power to England's commoners. The petition reinforced rights presented in the Magna Carta and limited the ability of the king to govern without Parliament.

Petition of Right - Key takeaways

  • Charles I, believed in the Divine Rights of Kings and that they should have absolute power.
  • Charles signed the Petition of Rights, and in exchange, Parliament provided the king with the funds for his war effort.
  • The Petition of Rights established that kings couldn't force the nobles to give them loans, imprison people without a fair trial, or force people to shelter their knights
  • Charles was executed at the end of the English Civil War. He is the first and only English monarch to be executed.

Frequently Asked Questions about Petition of Right

The Petition of Rights guaranteed the following rights:

  • Taxation had to be approved by Parliament
  • No one could be imprisoned without cause
  • The government could not force citizens to house soldiers
  • Marshall law could not go on during peacetime

The Petition of Rights was signed on June 7, 1628

Parliament believed that King Charles had abused his power and had no other option but to sign the Petition of Rights.

The Petition of Rights guaranteed rights to the English people that the king had to honor. It also gave Parliament more power.

The Petition of Rights guaranteed certain rights to the people that the king had to honor. When the king ignored the petition, England entered a civil war. 

Final Petition of Right Quiz

Petition of Right Quiz - Teste dein Wissen

Question

Which King signed the Petition of Right?

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Answer

James I

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Question

____ is the belief that God chose the king and gave him the right to rule.

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Answer

Divine Right

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Question

____ were rulers who were able to rule on their own without having to get approval from anyone 

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Answer

Absolute Monarchs

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Question

The king could raise taxes without Parliament's approval.

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Answer

True

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Question

What year was the Petition of Right signed?

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Answer

1628

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Question

Why was false imprisonment added to the Petition of Right?

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Answer

The Five Knights were falsely imprisoned 

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Question

Which clause from the Magna Carta influenced the Petition of Right?

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Answer

Clause 39

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Question

Which of the following was not a principle of the Petition of Right?

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Answer

The King could not raise money without Parliament

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Question

How long did Charles go without calling a Parliament?

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Answer

Eleven Years

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Question

Who was the only king in English history to be executed?

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Answer

Charles I

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