Expert Answers
beardian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Politically, 17th Century England began as an absolute monarchy, where one ruler has all of the power and control over his or her country.  The century began with Queen Elizabeth of the Tudor House.  On her death in 1603, James I of the House of Stuart became the King.  Unlike his predecessor, James I did not have a strong relationship with Parliament.  Both the King and Parliament claimed to have power over England, which later on led to a Civil War.

Under King Charles I, the King's supporters (Cavaliers) and the Parliamentary supporters (Roundheads) fought for which group would have power over England.  Out of this Civil War emerged Oliver Cromwell, a leader for the Parliamentary forces who helped defeat King Charles I.  Charles was tried for treason and executed.  

For a time after this, Oliver Cromwell ruled England as a Commonwealth.  During this time, religious groups like the Puritans were able to pioneer rules and laws which many Englishmen did not like, so after Cromwell's death, England called for a restoration of the monarchy.  The Stuarts were restored to the throne and ruled from 1660-1688.  Again, religion helped end the Stuart's reign in power.  King James II was widely believed to be a Catholic, and when his son was christened a Catholic, this caused a lot of problems for mainly Anglican England.  The idea of Catholicism taking over as the main religion sparked the Glorious Revolution, where Parliament helped engineer a takeover of Protestant King William of Orange (Dutch) and Queen Mary, one of James II's protestant daughters.  William and Mary ruled England, but did not have any children, and so when they died the throne passed on to a line of Protestant Stuarts until 1714.  

To recap, in 17th Century England, there was:

  • The Glorious Revolution
  • The English Civil War
  • the end of the Tudor Line and introduction of the Stuart Line
  • Tension between the monarchy and parliament
  • Religious tension