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A prince whose character
A prince whose character

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Almost everyone has had a difficult boss to get along with. In 1622, every member of the English Parliament was experiencing this problem. The boss was James I, a new king of the new Stuart line, having inherited the throne when his Tudor godmother Elizabeth died childless. James was heartily welcomed when he first arrived in England to take the throne, but he was no Englishman. In the following years of clashes between him and Parliament, he would prove it all too often.

James was a firm believer in the divine right of kings, and had written works on the subject. The country was his to rule, a practice he had always employed in Scotland and never been questioned for it. Parliament, four hundred years after the Magna Carta, saw it differently. To them, Parliament provided the crucial balance for just government, a republican counterweight to the inherited power of the king. James must have been utterly exasperated after just a year on the English throne, constantly needled by that Parliament to “prove” his actions were within the law. Matters came to a head one year when he had determined to marry the Spanish princess, a thoroughly unwelcome match with the lurking danger of Catholic inquisitions. Parliament protested, and James threatened them with royal punishment for it. When the members avowed their right to free speech, James lost his temper and dissolved Parliament on the spot.

James may have exerted his ‘divine right’ that day, but it did little to help him in the long run. The proposed marriage fell through and James eked out the rest of his days as an unpopular and ineffective monarch, informally ousted from power by his own son, who would be just as unpopular. Threaten and bully all they like, the pride of the Englishmen for their rights has always trumped a monarch’s short-lived power. It is that pride that lived on in the American colonists, and eventually manifested itself in constitutional rule with no king at all.