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Charles I and the Spanish Plot: Anglo-Habsburg Relations and the Outbreak of the War of Three Kingdoms, 1630-1641

  • Author(s): O'Neill, Patrick Ignacio
  • Advisor(s): Cogswell, Thomas
  • et al.

This dissertation focuses on Anglo-Habsburg relations during the personal rule of Charles I until the outbreak of the Civil War. Making extensive use of Continental European archival materials in addition to British sources, the dissertation examines the major issues in Anglo-Spanish and Anglo-Flemish politics. These include naval security in the English Channel, the negotiations for the restoration of the Lower Palatinate, the recruitment of English and Irish soldiers to serve in Spanish armies, and the hopes of the Count-Duke of Olivares to persuade England to join a Habsburg alliance against France and Holland in the Thirty Years War. These negotiations floundered throughout the decade because of Charles's unwillingness to antagonize the English population with an unpopular war and his inability to wage war without Parliament. Additionally, the Spaniards were severely hampered by their occupation of the Palatinate, which Charles demanded they restore, but which they would not relinquish without first gaining the English alliance. In 1640, Charles was faced with an uncontainable rebellion in Scotland and could no longer afford to dismiss Spanish overtures or insist on the Palatinate restoration. Badly in need of funds, he was reluctant to summon Parliament for fear it would be determined to limit his power and exert control over policy. At this moment, Spanish ambassadors offered Charles a sizeable sum of money in exchange for the assistance of the English navy and recruiting privileges in Ireland. Such an agreement would have allowed Charles to raise another army without recourse to Parliament and could have completely altered the history of the Civil Wars, or even precluded them entirely. With record speed, the Spanish ambassadors and English ministers produced the necessary treaty. Their plans, however, were defeated by the distance and slow communications between Madrid and London which critically delayed the confirmation of the treaty and the raising of the agreed funds. By the time the money arrived, events in England had already moved beyond Charles's control. Nevertheless, this episode represents a major potential turning point in the history of the Civil Wars and a perfect demonstration of the importance of integrating British and European history.

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