Emergence of the nation

The 15th century is a border-line in the history of the English people. In 1485 there ended the War between the Roses. The end of the war meant the end of feudalism and the beginning of the new economical and political stage of the English society capitalism. It was a transition between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. An absolute monarchy was established, the first absolute monarch being Henry Tutor. It meant a real unification of the country, political and economic, resulted in the development of capitalism and made it evitable that one nation and one national language be established.

The first king of this period, Henry VII (1485 – 1509) strengthened the monarchy and provided the revenue imperative for its very existence. During his reign commerce and shipbuilding were encouraged, and the material wealth of the country increased. New lands – Newfoundland and Nova Scotia – were discovered. Following in his steps, his son, Henry VIII (1509 – 1547) broke away from the ecclesiastical influence of Rome, made himself head of the Church of England and of the State and transferred the property of the monasteries to himself. Dozens of large ships were built, trade continued to develop, and new territories were drawn into it. It was during the reign of Henry’s son, Edward VI (1547 – 1553), that trade with Muskovy or Russia, as we call it today, was opened up.

The long reign of Elisabeth I (1558 – 1603) was one the most remarkable for the country, its progress in the discovery and colonizing field tremendously. Queen Elisabeth’s reign was also particularly rich in learning – it was the age of Shakespeare, Sydney, Spencer, Beckon, Marlowe and many other famous names.

Nevertheless, the evident achievements in foreign policy, trade and culture did not put an end to the controversy of various powerful forces in the country. Another problem which was to have far-reaching consequences was that of whether sovereignty lay with monarch or Parliament advocating the interests of the new developing classes of society. The strife between the Crown and Parliament was aggravated by religious differences. The development of the country required more regular revenue, and forced the Crown to raise taxes, which met with disapproval from Parliament.

In the XVII century Charles I (1625 – 1649) for over a decade ruled without Parliament, but had finally to reach a compromise, according to which the powers of Parliament were greatly extended. Hence force one legal system was to apply to the king and his subjects alike, and no taxation was to be raised without Parliament’s consent. However, when Parliament demanded further concessions, denied the king control of the army, a crisis followed which is now known under the title of the Great Rebellion. The Crown lost the ensuing war, Charles I surrendered and was executed, and for over a decade the country was ruled by Parliament alone, the most notable leader of that time being Oliver Cromwell. Granted the title of Lord Protector, he was a virtual dictator of the nation, heavily relying on the Army and disillusioning Parliament which had first brought him to power.

After the death of Oliver Cromwell the Army and Parliament were unable to agree on a government, and the restoration of monarchy that followed in 1660, when the son of the executed king, Charles II, was invited to return to the throne, was more a restoration of Parliament than of the king himself. Charles II, who during the time of Cromwell lived in exile in France, brought with him from the Continent a keen interest in scientific development, culture and arts, together with a considerable influence of the French language spoken by his supporters.


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