In the 17th century the regulating groups were, broadly, feudal landlords and privileged merchants, with a royal bureaucracy pursuing as a superfeudal overlord the interest of the Crown. An established church meant royal appointment and control of the churches as well. The peasantry and the urban laborers and artisans were never able to control the state apparatus, and were therefore at the bottom of the state-organized pyramid and exploited by the ruling groups. Other religious groups were, of course, separated from or opposed to the ruling state. And religious groups in control of the state, or sharing in that control, might well pursue not only strictly economic "interest" but also ideological or spiritual ones, as in the case of the Puritans' imposing a compulsory code of behavior on all of society.
One of the most misleading practices of historians has been to lump together "merchants" (or "capitalists") as if they constituted a homogeneous class having a homogeneous relation to state power. The merchants either were suffered to control or did not control the government at a particular time. In fact, there is no such common interest of merchants as a class. The state is in a position to grant special privileges, monopolies, and subsidies. It can only do so to particular merchants or groups of merchants, and therefore only at the expense of other merchants who are discriminated against. If X receives a special privilege, Y suffers from being excluded. And also suffering are those who would have been merchants were it not for the state's network of privilege.
In fact, because of (a) the harmony of interests of different groups on the free market (for example, merchants and farmers) and (b) the lack of homogeneity among the interests of members of any one social class, it is fallacious to employ such terms as "class interests" or "class conflict" in discussing the market economy. It is only in relation to state action that the interests of different men become welded into "classes," for state action must always privilege one or more groups and discriminate against others. The homogeneity emerges from the intervention of the government in society. Thus, under feudalism or other forms of "land monopoly" and arbitrary land allocation by the government, the feudal landlords, privileged by the state, become a "class' (or "caste" or "estate"). And the peasants, homogeneously exploited by state privilege, also become a class. For the former thus constitute a "ruling class" and the latter the "ruled." Even in the case of land privilege, of course, the extent of privilege will vary from one landed group to another. But merchants were not privileged as a class and therefore it is particularly misleading to apply a class analysis to them.
The merchants, or capitalists, being the peculiarly mobile and dynamic groups in society that can either flourish on the free market or try to obtain state privileges, are, then, particularly ill-suited to a homogeneous class analysis. Furthermore, on the free market no one is fixed in his occupation, and this particularly applies to entrepreneurs or merchants whose ranks can be increased or decreased very rapidly. These men are the very opposite of the sort of fixed status imposed on land by the system of feudalism.