The Crisis of 1626



bulletMuch of the money voted in 1624 had been spent by Charles and Buckingham on refurbishing the English fleet. They decided to use their new naval power to repeat the triumphant Elizabethan attacks upon Cadiz.

The Raid on Cadiz, 1625


The fleet commanded by Sir Edward Cecil arrived at the Bay of Cadiz in October 1625, and immediately made errors. Spanish vessels that might have been captured, escaped to the safety of Port Royal because everyone waited for orders and did nothing. The English ships first stopped at the port of Saint Mary and then - instead of immediately assaulting Cadiz - mounted a preparatory attack of Fort Puntal.

The English ships were largely merchant vessels conscripted for service, and their owners/captains were so concerned for their ships' safety that they left all the fighting to the Dutch.

When English soldiers were finally disembarked to make the attack, no food or - more importantly - water were landed with them. Cecil allowed the thirsty men to broach vats of wine stored in local houses, and soon the whole force was dead drunk. Finding himself in command of undisciplined inebriates, firing at one another rather than the enemy, Cecil ordered re-embarkation.

The fleet then took position to intercept the Spanish galleons bringing bullion back from the New World. But - forewarned by rumors of war - the treasure fleet took a southerly route, and slipped into Cadiz harbor unimpeded.

Lacking any alternative plans, and with disease spreading through the dirty and crowded ships, the fleet limped home in December. Many more hungry and diseased soldiers died in England because no provision had been made to receive them.

The whole expedition was an expensive (c. 250,000) and humiliating failure.

bullet Since Buckingham had played the leading role in advocating and organizing the expedition, and since it was his friends and appointees that had so poorly prepared fleet and army, its failure was blamed wholly on Buckingham.  

The Sovereign of the Seas
one of the ships built to restore English naval power after the Cadiz fiasco


bullet Buckingham nonetheless nursed grand schemes to mount a Protestant Alliance to recover the Palatinate for Frederick V. He promised money to Christian IV of Denmark if he would support the alliance, encouraged Count Mansfeld's army, and urged the French into open war on the Habsburgs.

bullet The main obstacle to Buckingham's ambitious plans was lack of money. He and Charles therefore tried to build bridges with hostile English nobles - most importantly the Earl of Pembroke - and to buy popularity by re-instating the suspended enforcement of penal laws against Catholics. After these preparations, another Parliament was summoned.


 The Parliament of 1626

bulletCharles took one more step in his attempts to ensure a compliant parliament:  he named his main opponents in the 1624 and 1625 parliaments (Sir Edward Coke, Sir Francis Seymour, Sir Robert Phelips, Sir Guy Palmes, Sir Thomas Wentworth and Edward Alford) as sheriffs. A sheriff's duties in the localities officially precluded attendance at Parliament. By this device Charles hoped to exclude the fractious few responsible in his eyes for causing all the trouble.

Louis XIII

The unpopularity of Charles and Buckingham was increased by their attempts to form an alliance with with France. To tempt France to war against Spain, Charles had offered to lend English ships to France -  but Louis XIII's government promptly tried to use these ships against the rebellious French Protestants (Huguenots).


bulletCharles' devious tactic only served to irritate the Commons, which soon found a new leader in Sir John Eliot, who was particularly outraged by Buckingham's compliance in the French crown's suppression of Huguenots. He expressed the widespread disgust at the failure of the Cadiz expedition, attacked Buckingham, and suggested that the Commons refuse to vote taxation until its grievances were remedied.

Sir John Eliot

"For news, little is yet done in parliament, but snarling on both sides, & much muttering against the Duke, ..."

(Nathaniel Bacon to Lady Jane Cornwallis, February 1626)


bullet Buckingham also had enemies amongst England's peers :  in particular, William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke and John Digby, Earl of Bristol. Archbishop Abbot cooperated with his friend, the MP Sir Dudley Digges, to coordinate the attacks in the Houses of Lords and Commons.
bulletWhile the House of Lords considered the dispute between Buckingham and Bristol, the House of Commons moved to impeach Buckingham for the faults and failings of the government in recent years. Buckingham was to bear the blame for Charles' mistakes as well as his own.

"The laws of England have taught us that kings cannot command ill or unlawful things. And whatsoever ill events succeed, the executioners of such designs must answer for them".

(Sir Dudley Digges, 1626)


bulletAfter a speech against Buckingham by Eliot that consisted mostly of learned insults, Charles had Digges and Eliot committed to the Tower. Both Houses reacted with such fury - refusing to conduct any business until the two were released - that Charles was forced to back down and free them.

A gold unite of 1625


bullet Charles then demanded that parliament should vote the taxes he wanted immediately (i.e. before the charges against Buckingham were judged). The Commons refused point blank.


"For we protest before your Majesty and the whole world, that until this great person be removed from intermeddling with the great affairs of State, we are out of hope of any good success; and do fear that any money we shall or can give will, through his misemployment, be turned rather to the hurt and prejudice of this your kingdom than otherwise, as by lamentable experience we have found in those large supplies formerly and lately given"


bullet Fearful that he had lost control of both Commons and Lords and that Buckingham would indeed be impeached, Charles I abruptly dissolved Parliament, 15 June 1626.

     Next section