THE KING’S FINANCES
Basic problems The recent wars had cost Charles dear. Even though Parliament had, for all its reservations, granted a total of twelve subsidies between 1621 and 1628, and the King had levied the equivalent of another five through the Forced Loan of 1626-27, he found himself by 1629 roughly £2 million in debt. His scope for manoeuvre was limited. Relations with the City of London were already strained, especially in the case of those aldermen with a concessionary interest in foreign trade who were faced with paying tonnage and poundage, still unratified by Parliament, rather than farming it as some of the domestic concessionaries did (48). Even if he had the collateral, he was hardly able to use it as a source for further loans while a scheme for repaying earlier ones slowly worked itself out. Introduced in 1627-28, the scheme authorised the City to sell over a number of years, for the King and also on its own behalf, much of what was left of the Crown lands, thus bringing to an end the traditional means by which the medieval monarchy had under pinned itself. Philip Burlamachi, the financier who had contributed most to the private funding of royal policy during the 1620s, was by 1629 so enmeshed in the tangled web of Caroline finance that he was shortly to be brought down, and bankrupted, when Loid Treasurer Weston failed to honour a verbal promise to repay some of his moneys in 1633 (50, 49, 51, 128). In 1629, the King’s regular, or ordinary, annual income amounted to just over £600,000 a year, more than one-third of which was spent on maintaining the royal Household and its establishment of 1,700. The absence of parliamentary supply for the immediate future was thus not Charles’s most pressing problem, for that was normally reserved for extraordinary occasions, and did not contribute to the King’s ordinary revenues. Much more urgent was the need to increase the level of his annual income and regulate more closely the ways in which it was spent. Fundamental reforms of an antiquated system were out of the question, if only because early
seventeenth-century kings and ministers tended naturally to look backwards rather than forwards, and to think in terms of removing impurities from a once healthy body, instead of changing the structure for a new one.