A petition against royal taxes from the town of Woodbridge in Suffolk, February 1627
(Catalogue ref: SP 16/55/59)
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’.
The government had asked for information about shipping in Woodbridge. Once the government had all the information, the town would be told how much tax it had to pay. Ship money was a tax which was usually paid by coastal towns to help pay for the navy. It was a tax that Charles could collect without consulting Parliament.
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.
Most of the nobles loved art, architecture and fine things. As king, Charles was keen to have the finest things of all. Magnificent buildings like the Banqueting House and the Palace of Whitehall did impress people. Charles also insisted on strict rules of behaviour at court. People could only talk to him at certain times. His rules were designed to remind people that he was the king.
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.
Monarchs usually called Parliaments when they needed money for wars, but Charles did not like dealing with Parliament. His father (James I) had always understood that running the country meant some give and take. Charles disliked the idea of making deals and compromising. He simply wanted people to do what he told them.