Wait wait wait. Why would Charles agree to this?
Probably because a significant number of nobles were starting to make noise about how Charles should sign or there’d be Civil War.
Which there actually was not long after this! But if Charles hadn’t signed, odds are it would have come much earlier.
Here’s the slightly longer (but still super-condensed) version:
Charles had dissolved Parliament about 11 years before, and had been ruling by himself ever since. He wasn’t good at it, and wasn’t very popular. Without Parliament, he couldn’t raise taxes to pay for some really ill-advised military campaigns, and he tried to get… creative… with his fundraising. This did not help his popularity.
Meanwhile, Charles kept tightening his grip as a centralized ruler — not only with the help of Laud over in High Commission and Star Chamber, but with the Earl of Stafford as a sort of grand vizier. They were not very popular.
He overreacted to some mutterings from the Scots by launching a hugely expensive, and ultimately humiliating military campaign against them.
To pay for it, he called Parliament back to okay some new taxes. The voters didn’t elect many people who agreed with the king’s policies, however, and all he got was dissent. Parliament was dissolved in less than a month.
He really, really needed the money, however. So about six months later, he convened another Parliament to raise the cash.
Again, those elected to Commons tended not to be big supporters of the king or his people. The first thing they did was impeach Laud and Stafford of high treason.
It turns out that Stafford had been very naughty indeed. He’d basically told the king: “Screw your subjects. You don’t owe them a damn thing. In fact, I’ve got an army in Ireland we can use to subdue England and force everyone to do things your way.”
And it turned out that Charles was implicated in this treason in no small way. He even had a hand in an abortive military coup after Stafford was arrested. Think “Stalin” and you won’t be far wrong from how Charles was perceived at that point. Even the Lords didn’t have his back any more. And that’s saying something.
Charles legitimately feared for his own life, now. He went back on his promise to prevent Stafford from being harmed, and Stafford was executed. (Laud would also be executed some years later.)
At this point, Charles would have done almost anything Parliament demanded. Apart from abolishing Star Chamber and High Commission, he gave Parliament a lot of power and permanence. It is no exaggeration to think of it all as a second Magna Carta.
It didn’t help. He got more paranoid, Parliament got more suspicious, he brought things to a head by trying to arrest five Members, but he failed and fled instead, and next thing you know he’d raised his standard and had declared war on Parliament. He lost the war, and his head.
England carried on, however. As did the law, as we shall see.
Huh, I never realized how distinctive your expository writing style is until I chanced upon this significant chunk of it outside the comic.
And it only took 300 years!
The parts glossed over in this discourse are the bits about how much Charles hated Parliament, but was required by other laws to convene the body whenever he needed money. That lead to a 10 year hiatus in the convening of Parliament, & the various ministers, etc. took advantage when they did meet to perform several various other needed things.
Search for the “Short Parliament” & the “Long Parliament” for the enticing details.
Ah, and now I notice that someone else beat me to the particulars. Carry on.
Where the hell are judges like this now?!
I may be jumping ahead here (or simply wandering into a digression, which I’m wont to do), but there’s a fascinating book by Geoffrey Robertson, “The Tyrannicide Brief: The Story of the Man Who Sent Charles I to the Scaffold,” about both the legal process that led to the killing of the ousted King and the fate, after the Restoration, of the lawyer who made it work.
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