Chapter 4
Charles and the British
Problem, 1625–1638

Ireland

Any investigation of Charles’s role in governing Ireland and Scotland has to be set in the context of what recent scholarship has called the ‘British Problem’. Conrad Russell, in particular, has highlighted the difficulties the king faced in ruling a ‘composite monarchy’ made up of the very different kingdoms of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Each had its own cultural, political and religious traditions and each had a different relationship with the centre of government in London. In the case of Wales there were few problems. The principality had been successfully united with the English political and legal system since the Act of Union of 1536 and its church was part of the Church of England. Ireland and Scotland, however, were much less fully integrated. Scotland remained an independent entity, united with England since 1603 mainly by the fact that both kingdoms had the same sovereign. James had failed to persuade his first parliament to support a full legal and administrative union, so Scotland retained its own parliament, its own legal system and its own privy council. It also had a Presbyterian ‘kirk’, the independence of which was a source of great national pride. Ireland, on the other hand, was a colonial kingdom, part of the English monarchy by dint of conquest by the Normans that had been consolidated in the sixteenth century. It had its own parliament, lord deputy, council and legal system, but the lord deputy and council were directly answerable to the English privy council and the parliament was hedged around with

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