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What kind of king was Charles I?

Case Study 2: Charles I as a ruler – Source 4

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A petition against royal taxes from the town of Woodbridge in Suffolk, February 1627

(Catalogue ref: SP 16/55/59)

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What is this source?

This is a petition or request from the people of Woodbridge in 1627. They were explaining to the government why they had not supplied the information they were asked for. They wanted to get out of paying a tax called ‘ship money’.

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What's the background to this source?

There were several different types of taxes that towns had to pay. As well as ship money, other taxes took the form of paying for the king’s soldiers. This might be cash for the wages, ships to transport them, equipment or food for the troops. Plus in the 1600s the government did not have police forces, traffic wardens and all the other officials it has today. Instead people in towns like Woodbridge had to carry out many different jobs for the king.

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It's worth knowing that...

Most monarchs in the 1600s were short of money. Charles I was no exception. Charles was facing a war against Spain in 1626. He was recruiting and training soldiers and sailors. He needed money to feed, pay and equip them.

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Your turn: What does this source tell us?

  1. The petition set out five reasons why Woodbridge would struggle to pay ship money. What were they?
  2. Which reasons do you find most convincing?
  3. What does this source tell us about what people had to pay for in towns like Woodbridge?
  4. According to this source, had Charles been paying his bills?
  5. Do you get the impression that the people of Woodbridge have a good case or do you think they are just dodging taxes?