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Charles I (19 November 1600 – 30 January 1649), the second son of James VI of Scotland and I of England, was King of England, Scotland and Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution. Charles famously engaged in a struggle for power with the Parliament of England. He was an advocate of the Divine Right of Kings, which was the belief that kings received their power from God and thus could not be deposed (unlike the similar Mandate of Heaven). Many of his English subjects feared that he was attempting to gain absolute power. Many of his actions, particularly the levying of taxes without Parliament's consent, caused widespread opposition.

Religious conflicts permeated Charles' reign. He married a Catholic princess, Henrietta Maria of France, over the objections of Parliament and public opinion. He further allied himself with controversial religious figures, including the ecclesiastic Richard Montagu and William Laud, whom Charles appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. Many of Charles's subjects felt this brought the Church of England too close to Roman Catholicism. Charles's later attempts to force religious reforms upon Scotlandmarker led to the Bishops' Wars that weakened England's government and helped precipitate his downfall.

His last years were marked by the English Civil War, in which he fought the forces of the English and Scottish Parliaments, which challenged his attempts to augment his own power, and the Puritans, who were hostile to his religious policies and supposed Catholic sympathies. Charles was defeated in the First Civil War (1642–45), after which Parliament expected him to accept its demands for a constitutional monarchy. He instead remained defiant by attempting to forge an alliance with Scotland and escaping to the Isle of Wightmarker. This provoked the Second Civil War (1648–49) and a second defeat for Charles, who was subsequently captured, tried, convicted, and executed for high treason. The monarchy was then abolished and a republic called the Commonwealth of England, also referred to as the Cromwellian Interregnum, was declared. Charles's son, Charles II, became king after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. In that same year, Charles I was canonized by the Church of England, and is referred to as "St. Charles Stuart" in the calendar of saints of the Church of England and of the Anglican Church of Canada. His commemoration day is 30 January, the anniversary of his death.

Early life

The second son of James VI of Scotland and Anne of Denmark, Charles was born in Dunfermlinemarker, Fifemarker, on 19 November, 1600, and, until the age of three, was unable to walk or talk. His paternal grandmother was Mary, Queen of Scots, who had been beheaded by order of Elizabeth I of England on 8 February, 1587.

When Elizabeth died in March 1603 and James VI of Scotland became King of England as James I, Charles was originally left in Scotland in the care of nurses and servants because it was feared that the journey would damage his fragile health. He did make the journey in July 1604 and was subsequently placed under the charge of Alletta (Hogenhove) Carey, the Dutch-born wife of courtier Sir Robert Carey, who taught him how to walk and talk and insisted that he wear boots made of Spanish leather and brass to help strengthen his weak ankles. When Charles was an adult, he was 5 feet 3 inches (162 cm) tall.

Charles as Duke of York and Albany, c.
Charles was not as valued as his elder brother, Henry, Prince of Wales; Charles himself adored Henry and tried to emulate him. In 1603, Charles was created Duke of Albany, with the subsidiary titles Marquess of Ormond, Earl of Ross and Lord Ardmannoch the sixth, in Scotland. Two years later, Charles was created Duke of York, which is customary in the case of the Sovereign's second son.

When his elder brother died of typhoid at the age of 18 in 1612, two weeks before Charles's 12th birthday, Charles became heir apparent (and the eldest living son of the sovereign, thus automatically gaining several titles including Duke of Cornwall and Duke of Rothesay) and was subsequently created the Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester in November 1616. His sister Elizabeth married Frederick V, Elector Palatine in 1613 and moved to Heidelbergmarker.

The new Prince of Wales was greatly influenced by his father's favourite, George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham.. Although Parliament attempted to force James I's hand in terms of foreign policy by making the vote on taxation dependent upon a declaration of war upon Spain, in January 1622 James dissolved the Parliament. Moreover, Charles, together with Buckingham travelled incognito to Spainmarker the following year in an attempt to reach agreement on the long-pending Spanish Match between Charles and Infanta Maria Anna of Spain, the daughter of King Philip III of Spain; a move which James I saw as potentially paving a way for peace in Europe. The trip ended as an embarrassing failure however, as the Spanish demanded that Charles convert to Roman Catholicism and remain in Spain for a year after the wedding as hostage to ensure England's compliance with all the terms of the treaty. Charles was outraged, and upon their return in October, he and Buckingham demanded that King James declare war on Spain.

With the encouragement of his Protestant advisers, James summoned Parliament so that he could request subsidies for a war. James also requested that Parliament sanction the marriage between the Prince of Wales and Princess Henrietta Maria of France, whom Charles had met in Parismarker while en route to Spain. It was a good match since she was a sister of Louis XIII (their father, Henry IV, had died during her childhood). Although Parliament agreed to the marriage, the episode soured Charles' alliance with the Puritans. Furthermore, Parliament as a whole remained extremely critical of the prior attempts to arrange a marital alliance with Spain. By 1624, James was growing senile, and as a result was finding it extremely difficult to control Parliament—the same problem would later haunt Charles during his reign. By the time of James death, February 1625,Charles and the Duke of Buckingham had already achieved de facto control of the Kingdom.

Both Charles and James were advocates of the divine right of kings, but whilst James' lofty ambitions were tempered by compromise and consensus with his subjects, Charles I was shy and diffident, but also self-righteous, stubborn, opinionated, determined and confrontational. Charles believed he had no need to compromise or even explain his rules and that he was answerable only to God, famously stating: "Kings are not bound to give an account of their actions but to God alone". "I mean to show what I should speak in actions." Those actions were open to misinterpretation, and there were fears as early as 1626 that he was a potential tyrant.

Oath of Allegiance

Although the concept of the Oath of Allegiance was founded upon the principles of the Magna Carta, early modern usage of such an oath was instituted by James I and extensively broadened under the reign of Charles. The text of the Oath of Allegiance to Charles read as follows;
I A. B. doe truely and sincercly acknowledge, professe, testifie and declare in my conscience before God and the world, That our Soveraigne Lord King CHARLES, is lawfull King of this Realme, and of all other His Majesties Dominions and Countreyes: And that the Pope neither of himselfe, nor by any Authority of the Church or Sea of Rome, or by an other meanes with any other, hath any power or Authority to depose the king, or to dispose of any of his Majesties Kingdomes or Dominions, or to Authorize any Forraigne Prince, to invade or annoy Him or His Countreyes, or to discharge any of his Subjects of their Allegiance and Obedience to His Majestie, or to give Licence or leave to any of them to beare Armes, raise Tumults, or to offer any violence or hurt to His Majesties Royall person, State or Government, or to any of His Majesties Subjects within His Majesties Dominions. Also I doe sweare from my heart, that, notwithstanding any Declaration or Sentence of Excommunication or Deprivation made or granted, or to be made or granted, by the Pope or his Successors, or by any Authority derived, or pretended to be derived from him or his Sea, against the said King, His Heires or Successors, or any Absolution of the said Subjects from their Obedience; I will bear faith and true allegiance to His Majestie, His Heires and Successors, and Him and Them will defend to the uttermost of my power, against all Conspiracies and Attempts whatoever, which shall be made against His or their Persons, their Crowne and Dignitie, by reason or colour of any such Sentence, or Declaration or otherwise, and will doe my best endevour to disclose and make known unto his Majesty, His Heires and Successors, all Treasons and Traitorous Conspiracies which I shall know or heare of to be against Him, or any of them. And l do further sweare, That I do from my heart abhor, detest and abjure as impious and Hereticall this damnable Doctrine and Position, That Princes which be Excommunicated or deprived by the Pope, may be Deposed or Murthered by their Subjects, or any other whatsoever. And I doe beleeve, and in conscience am resolved, that neither the Pope, nor any person whatsoever hath power to absolve me of this Oath, or any part thereof; which I acknowledge by good and full Authority to bee lawfully ministered unto me, and do renounce all Pardons and Dispensations to the contrary. And all these things I doe plainely and sincerely acknowledge and sweare, according to these expresse words by me spoken, and according to the plaine and common sence and understanding of the same words, without any Equivocation, or mentall evasion or secret reservasion whatsoever. And I doe make this Recognition and acknowledgement heartily, willingly, and truely, upon the true Faith of a Christian. So helpe me GOD.

Early reign

On 11 May, 1625, Charles was married by proxy to Henrietta Maria. In his first Parliament, which he opened in May, many members were opposed to his marriage to Henrietta Maria, a Roman Catholic, fearing that Charles would lift restrictions on Roman Catholics and undermine the official establishment of Protestantism. Although he stated to Parliament that he would not relax restrictions relating to recusants, he promised to do exactly that in a secret marriage treaty with Louis XIII of France. Moreover, the price of marriage with the French princess was a promise of English aid for the French crown in the suppressing of the Protestant Huguenots at La Rochellemarker, thereby reversing England's long held position in the French Wars of Religion. The couple were married in person on 13, June 1625 in Canterburymarker and Charles himself was crowned on 2 February, 1626 at Westminster Abbeymarker, but without his wife at his side due to the controversy. Charles and Henrietta had seven children, with three sons and three daughters surviving infancy.

Distrust of Charles's religious policies increased with his support of a controversial ecclesiastic, Richard Montagu. In a pamphlet, Montagu had argued against the teachings of John Calvin, thereby bringing himself into disrepute amongst the Puritans. After a Puritan member of the House of Commons, John Pym, attacked Montagu's pamphlet during debate, Montagu requested the king's aid in another pamphlet entitled "Appello Caesarem" (Latin "I appeal to Caesar", a reference to an appeal against Jewish persecution made by Saint Paul the Apostle).See Acts 25:10-12 (NRSV translation): "Paul said, 'I am appealing to the emperor's tribunal; this is where I should be tried. I have done no wrong to the Jews, as you very well know. 11Now if I am in the wrong and have committed something for which I deserve to die, I am not trying to escape death; but if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can turn me over to them. I appeal to the emperor.' 12Then Festus, after he had conferred with his council, replied, 'You have appealed to the emperor; to the emperor you will go.'" Charles made the cleric one of his royal chaplains, increasing many Puritans' suspicions as to where Charles would lead the Church, fearing that his favouring of Arminianism was a clandestine attempt on Charles' part to aid the resurgence of Catholicism within the English Church.

Charles's primary concern during his early reign was foreign policy. The Thirty Years' War, originally confined to Bohemia, was spiralling out of control into a wider war between Protestants and Catholics in Europe. In 1620, Frederick V, Elector Palatine, the husband of Charles's sister Elizabeth, had lost his hereditary lands in the Palatinate to the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II. Having agreed to help his brother-in-law regain the Palatinate, Charles declared war on Spain, hoping to force the Catholic Spanish King Philip IV to intercede with the Emperor on Frederick's behalf.

Parliament preferred an inexpensive naval attack on Spanish colonies in the New World, hoping that the capture of the Spanish treasure fleets could finance the war. Charles, however, preferred more aggressive (and more expensive) action on the Continent. Parliament only voted to grant a subsidy of £140,000; an insufficient sum for Charles. Moreover, the House of Commons limited its authorization for royal collection of tonnage and poundage (two varieties of customs duties) to a period of one year, although previous sovereigns since 1414 had been granted the right for life. In this manner, Parliament could keep a check on expenditures by forcing Charles to seek the renewal of the grant each year. Charles's allies in the House of Lords, led by the Duke of Buckingham, refused to pass the bill. Although no Parliamentary authority for the levy of tonnage and poundage was obtained, Charles continued to collect the duties anyway.

The war with Spain went badly, largely due to Buckingham's incompetent leadership. Despite Parliament's protests, however, Charles refused to dismiss him, dismissing Parliament instead. He then provoked further unrest by trying to raise money for the war through a "forced loan" -- a tax levied without Parliamentary consent. Although partially successful in collecting the tax, Charles let the money dribble away in yet another military fiasco led by Buckingham. Summoned again in 1628, Parliament adopted a Petition of Right on 26 May, calling upon the king to acknowledge that he could not levy taxes without Parliament's consent, impose martial law on civilians, imprison them without due process, or quarter troops in their homes. Charles assented to the petition, though he continued to claim the right to collect customs duties without authorization from Parliament.

Despite Charles' agreement to suppress La Rochelle as a condition of marrying Henrietta Maria, Charles reneged upon his earlier promise amd instead launched a poorly conceived and executed defense of the fortress under the leadership of Buckingham in 1628 - thereby driving a wedge between the English and French Crowns that was not surmounted for the duration of the 30 Years' War. Buckingham's failure to protect the Huguenots - indeed, his very presence spurred Louis XIII's attack on the fortress - furthered Parliament's detestation of the Duke and the king's close proximity to this 'eminence grise'. On 12 June, 1625, the House of Commons launched a direct protestation, stating,'We protest before your Majesty and the whole world that until this great person be removed from intermeddling with the great affairs of state, we are out of hope of any good success; and we do fear that any money we shall or can give will, through his misemployment, be turned rather to the hurt and prejudice of your kingdom.'

On 23 August, 1628, Buckingham was assassinated. The public rejoicing at his death accentuated the gulf between the court and the nation, and between the crown and the Commons. Although the death of Buckingham effectively ended the war with Spain and eliminated his leadership as an issue, it did not end the conflicts between Charles and Parliament over taxation and religious matters.

Personal Rule

"Charles I, King of England, from Three Angles", the "Triple Portrait" by Anthony van Dyck.
In January 1629, Charles opened the second session of the Parliament, which had been prorogued in June 1628, with a moderate speech on the tonnage and poundage issue. Members of the House of Commons began to voice their opposition in light of the Rolle case, in which the autonomous MP had had his goods confiscated for failing to pay tonnage and poundage. Many MPs viewed the confiscation as a breach of the Petition of Right, arguing that the petition's freedom-from-arrest privilege extended to goods. When Charles ordered a parliamentary adjournment in March, members held the Speaker, Sir John Finch, down in his chair whilst resolutions against Catholicism, Arminianism and poundage and tonnage were read out. The latter most resolution declared that anyone who paid tonnage or poundage not authorised by Parliament would "be reputed a betrayer of the liberties of England, and an enemy to the same", and, although the resolution was not formally passed, many members declared their approval. That a number of MPs had to be detained in Parliament is relevant in understanding that there was no universal opposition towards the King. Nevertheless, the provocation was too much for Charles, who dissolved parliament the same day. Moreover, eight parliamentary leaders, including Eliot, were imprisoned on the foot of the matter, thereby turning these men into martyrs, and giving popular cause to a protest that had hitherto been losing its bearings.

Immediately following the proroguing of Parliament, Charles made peace with France and Spain. The following eleven years, during which Charles ruled without a Parliament, are referred to as the Personal Rule or the Eleven Years' Tyranny. (Ruling without Parliament, though an exceptional exercise of the royal prerogative, was supported by precedent. By the middle of the 17th century, opinion shifted, and many held the Personal Rule to be an illegitimate exercise of arbitrary, absolute power.)

Economic problems

The reigns of Elizabeth I and James I had generated a large fiscal deficit for the kingdom. Notwithstanding the failure of Buckingham in the short lived campaigns against both Spain and France, there was in reality little economic capacity for Charles to wage wars overseas. Now, despite peace, without the consent of Parliament Charles' capacity to acquire funds in order to maintain his treasury was theoretically hamstrung, legally at least. To raise revenue without reconvening Parliament, Charles first resurrected an all-but-forgotten law called the "Distraint of Knighthood," promulgated in 1279, which required anyone who earned £40 or more each year to present himself at the King's coronation to join the royal army as a knight. Relying on this old statute, Charles fined all individuals who had failed to attend his coronation in 1626.

Later, Charles reintroduced obsolete feudal taxes such as purveyance, wardship, and forest laws. Chief among these taxes was one known as ship money, which proved even more unpopular, and lucrative, than poundage and tonnage before it. Under statutes of Edward I and Edward III, collection of ship money had been authorized only during wars, and only on coastal regions. Charles, however, argued that there was no legal bar to collecting the tax during peacetime and throughout the whole of the kingdom. Although the first writ levying ship money, issued in 1634, did not provoke much immediate opposition, the second and third writs, issued in 1635 and 1636 aroused serious dissent as Charles' intention became clear. Many attempted to resist payment, but the royal courts declared that the tax was within the King's prerogative. The collection was a major concern to the ruling class.

Personal Rule ended after the attempted enforcement of the Anglican and increasingly Arminian styled prayer book under Laud that precipitated a rebellion in Scotland in 1640.

Religious conflicts

Charles wished to move the Church of England away from Calvinism in a more traditional and sacramental direction. This goal was shared by his main political adviser, Archbishop William Laud. Laud was appointed by Charles as the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1633, and started a series of unpopular reforms in an attempt to impose order and authority on the church. Laud attempted to ensure religious uniformity by dismissing non-conformist clergymen and closing Puritan organizations. This was actively hostile to the Reformed tendencies of many of his king's English and Scottish subjects. His policy was obnoxious to Calvinist theology, and insisted that the Church of England's liturgy be celebrated using the form prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer. Laud was also an advocate of Arminian theology, a view whose emphasis on the ability to reject salvation was viewed as heretical and virtually "Catholic" by strict Calvinists.
William Laud shared Charles's views on Calvinism
To punish those who refused to accept his reforms, Laud used the two most feared and most arbitrary courts in the land, the Court of High Commission and the Court of Star Chamber. The former could compel individuals to provide self-incriminating testimony, whilst the latter, essentially an extension of the Privy Council, could inflict any punishment whatsoever (including torture), with the sole exception of death.

The lawlessness of the Court of Star Chamber under Charles far exceeded that under any of his predecessors. Under Charles's reign, defendants were regularly hauled before the Court without indictment, due process of the law, or right to confront witnesses, and their testimonies were routinely extracted by the Court through torture.

The first years of the Personal Rule were marked by peace in England, to some extent due to tighter central control. Several individuals opposed Charles's taxes and Laud's policies. For example, in 1634, the ship 'Griffin' left for America carrying religious dissidents, such as the Puritan minister Anne Hutchinson. However, when Charles attempted to impose his religious policies in Scotland he faced numerous difficulties. The King ordered the use of a new Prayer Book modelled on the English Book of Common Prayer, which, although supported by the Scottish Bishops, was resisted by many Presbyterian Scots, who saw the new Prayer Book as a vehicle for introducing Anglicanism to Scotland. In 1637, spontaneous unrest erupted throughout the Kirk upon the first Sunday of its usage, and the public began to mobilise around rebellious nobles in the form of the National Covenant. When the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland abolished Episcopalian government (that is, governance of the Church by bishops) in 1638, replacing it with Presbyterian government (that is, governance by elders and deacons), Charles sought to put down what he saw as a rebellion against his authority.

In 1639, when the First Bishops' War broke out, Charles failed in his attempts to collect taxes from his English subjects in order to organise an armed response against the Covenanters. Charles could not effectively wage war and was thus forced into a humiliating truce in June of the same year. In the Pacification of Berwick, Charles agreed to grant his Scottish subjects civil and ecclesiastical freedoms.

Charles's military failure in the First Bishops' War in turn caused a financial and military crisis for Charles, which caused the end of Personal Rule. Due to his financial weakness, Charles was forced to call Parliament into session by 1640 in an attempt to raise funds. While the ruling class's grievances with the changes to government and finance during the Personal Rule period were a contributing factor in the Scottish Rebellion, the key issue of religion was the main reason that forced Charles to confront the ruling class in Parliament for the first time in eleven years. In essence, it was Charles's and Laud's confrontational religious modifications that ended what the Whig historians refer to as "The Eleven Years of Tyranny".

The Second Bishops' War

Charles immediately sought to redress his grievances with the Church of Scotlandmarker, taking the fateful step of recalling Parliament in April 1640. Although Charles offered to repeal ship money, and the House of Commons agreed to allow Charles to raise the funds for war, an impasse was reached when Parliament demanded the discussion of various abuses of power during the Personal Rule. Both sides refused to give ground on this matter, and in the General Election in March, court candidates fared badly. The Parliamentarians' calls for further reforms were ignored by Charles, who still maintained the support of the House of Lords. Parliament was dissolved in May 1640, less than a month after it assembled; thus, the Parliament became known as the "Short Parliament."
Portrait of Charles I with Seignior de St Antoine

By this stage Wentworth, who was promoted to Earl of Strafford in January 1640, had emerged as Charles' right hand man. Although originally a major critic of the king, he defected to royal service in 1628, since emerging as a more than capable lieutenant. Having trained up a large army in Ireland in support of the king, and seriously weakened the authority of the Irish Parliament, particularly the members of parliament belonging to the Old English, Strafford had been instrumental in obtaining an independent source of royal revenue and forces in the three kingdoms. As the Scottish Parliament declared itself capable of governing without the king's consent and, in September 1640, moved into Northumber, Strafford was sent north to command the English forces. The Scottish forces, many of whom were veterans of the Thirty Years' War, had far greater morale and training compared to their English counterparts, and met virtually no resistance until reaching Newcastle where, at the Battle of Newburnmarker, the town—and hence England's coal supply—fell into the hands of the Covenanter forces. The English forces based at York were unable to mount a counterattack due to Strafford suffering from a serious case of gout.

On the 24th of September Charles took the unusual step of summoning the magnum concilium, the ancient council of all the Peers of the Realm, who were considered the King's hereditary counsellors, who recommended recalling Parliament. However, events overtook the King as the Covenanters took the initiative and marched on York, thereby forcing Charles to agree to the humiliating Treaty of Ripon, signed after the end in October 1640, whereby the Scots would continue to occupy Newcastle and be paid £850 per day, until peace was restored and the English Parliament called. That November Charles summoned what became known as the Long Parliament. Of the 493 MPs of the Commons, 399 were opposed to the king, and only 94 could be counted on, by Charles, for support.

The "Long Parliament"

The Long Parliament assembled in November 1640 under the leadership of John Pym, and proved just as difficult for Charles as the Short Parliament. Although the members of the House of Commons thought of themselves as conservatives defending the King, Church and Parliamentary government against innovations in religion and the tyranny of Charles's advisors, Charles viewed many of them as dangerous rebels trying to undermine his rule.

To prevent the King from dissolving it at will, Parliament passed the Triennial Act, to which the Royal Assent was granted in February 1641. The Act required that Parliament was to be summoned at least once every three years, and that when the King failed to issue proper summons, the members could assemble on their own. In May, he assented to an even more far-reaching Act, which provided that Parliament could not be dissolved without its own consent. Charles was forced into one concession after another. He agreed to bills of attainder authorising the executions of Thomas Wentworth and William Laud. Ship money, fines in destraint of knighthood and forced loans were declared unlawful, and the hated Courts of Star Chamber and High Commission were abolished. Although he made several important concessions, Charles improved his own military position by securing the favour of the Scots. He finally agreed to the official establishment of Presbyterianism; in return, he was able to enlist considerable anti-parliamentary support.
Henrietta Maria (c.
1633) by Sir Anthony van Dyck

In March 1641 Strafford, who had become the immediate target of the Parliamentarians, went on trial for high treason. The incident provided a new departure for Irish politics whereby Old English, Gaelic Irish and New English settlers joined together in a legal body to present evidence against Strafford. However, the Lords opposed to the severity of the sentence of death imposed upon Strafford on the 22nd of March, and the evidence supplied by Vale in relation to Strafford's alleged improper use and threat to England via the Irish army was not upheld by another witness, and the case consequently began to flounder. Moreover, Strafford's life ultimately lay in Charles' hands as his execution could not go ahead unless the king signed the Bill of Attainer. Yet, increased tensions and an attempted coup by the army in favour of Strafford began to sway the issue. In the Commons the Bill went virtually unopposed (204 in favour, 59 oppose, 250 abstain), the Lords acquiesced, and Charles, fearing for the safety of his family, signed in May. In a similar manner as pursued by the English Parliament in their opposition to Buckingham, albeit from a far less disingenuous stance, the Old English within the Irish Parliament argued that their opposition to Strafford did not negate their loyalty to Charles and that Charles, rather, had been led astray by the malign influence of the Earl. Nevertheless the New English could loosely be defined as aligned with the English Parliament and the Puritans. The success of the trial weakened Charles' influence whilst paving the way for cooperation between the Gaelic Irish and Old English, who had hitherto been antagonistic towards one another. In the conflagration between the Gaelic Irish and New English settlers in the Irish Rebellion of 1641 then, the Old English sided with the Old Irish whilst simultaneously professing their loyalty to the king. The support of the 'Papist Army' established by Strafford for the king, whose religious convictions were already doubted by the English Parliament, coupled with the massacres of Protestant New English in Ireland by Gaelic Irish who could not be controlled by their lords, proved one of the most potent catalysts in the eruption of the English Civil War. The English Parliament did not trust Charles' motivations when he called for funds to put down the Irish rebellion, and by this stage the capacity for the king and Parliament to reach a consensus at any level had become unattainable. The rebellion would ultimately be put down at the end of the English Civil War by the English Parliament under the leadership of Cromwell who would oppress both the Gaelic Irish and Old English due to their nominal support of the king and their shared Catholicism.

Following the attempted coup of 'The Incident' in Scotland, Charles' remaining Scottish support disintegrated. However, though in November 1641 the House of Commons passed the Grand Remonstrance, a long list of grievances against actions by Charles's ministers that were asserted to be abuses of royal power Charles had committed since the beginning of his reign, it was in many ways a step too far by Pym (passed by 5 votes, 200 abstain, and opposed by the Lords). The tension was heightened when the Irish rebelled against Protestant English rule and rumours of Charles's complicity reached Parliament. An army was required to put down the rebellion but many members of the House of Commons feared that Charles might later use it against Parliament itself. The Militia Bill was intended to wrest control of the army from the King, but Charles refused to agree to it. However, Parliament decreed The Protestation as an attempt to lessen the conflict.

When rumours reached Charles that Parliament intended to impeach his Catholic Queen, Henrietta Maria, he took drastic action. It was possibly Henrietta who persuaded him to arrest the five members of the House of Commons who were perceived to be the most troublesome on charges of high treason. Charles intended to carry out the arrests personally but news of the warrant reached Parliament ahead of him and the wanted men; Pym, John Hampden, Denzil Holles, William Strode and Sir Arthur Haselrig had already slipped away by the time he arrived. Charles entered the House of Commons with an armed force on 4 January 1642, but found that his opponents had already escaped. Having displaced the Speaker, William Lenthall from his chair, the King asked him where the MPs had fled. Lenthall famously replied, "May it please your Majesty, I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as the House is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am here." No monarch has entered the Commons chamber since.

The botched arrest attempt was politically disastrous for Charles. It caused acute embarrassment for the monarch and essentially triggered the total breakdown of government in England. Afterwards, Charles could no longer feel safe in London and he began travelling north to raise an army against Parliament; the Queen, at the same time, went abroad to raise money to pay for it.

English Civil War

The English Civil War had not yet started, but both sides began to arm. Following futile negotiations, Charles raised the royal standard in Nottinghammarker on 22 August 1642. He then set up his court at Oxfordmarker, when his government controlled roughly the Midlands, Wales, the West Country and north of England. Parliament remained in control of London and the south-east as well as East Anglia. Charles raised an army using the archaic method of the Commission of Array. The Civil War started on 26 October 1642 with the inconclusive Battle of Edgehillmarker and continued indecisively through 1643 and 1644, until the Battle of Nasebymarker tipped the military balance decisively in favour of Parliament. There followed a great number of defeats for the Royalists, and then the Siege of Oxfordmarker, from which Charles escaped in April 1646. He put himself into the hands of the Scottish Presbyterian army at Newarkmarker, and was taken to nearby Southwellmarker while his "hosts" decided what to do with him. The Presbyterians finally arrived at an agreement with Parliament and delivered Charles to them in 1647. He was imprisoned at Holdenby Housemarker in Northamptonshiremarker, until cornet George Joyce took him by force to Newmarketmarker in the name of the New Model Army. At this time mutual suspicion had developed between the New Model Army and Parliament, and Charles was eager to exploit it.

He was then transferred first to Oatlandsmarker and then to Hampton Courtmarker, where more involved but fruitless negotiations took place. He was persuaded that it would be in his best interests to escape — perhaps abroad, to France, or to the custody of Colonel Robert Hammond, Parliamentary Governor of the Isle of Wightmarker. He decided on the last course, believing Hammond to be sympathetic, and fled on 11 November. Hammond, however, was opposed to Charles, whom he confined in Carisbrooke Castlemarker.

From Carisbrooke, Charles continued to try to bargain with the various parties, eventually coming to terms with the Scottish Presbyterians that he would allow the establishment of Presbyterianism in England as well as Scotland for a trial period. The Royalists rose in July 1648 igniting the Second Civil War, and as agreed with Charles the Scots invaded England. Most of the uprisings in England were put down by forces loyal to Parliament after little more than skirmishes, but uprisings in Kentmarker, Essex and Cumberlandmarker, the rebellion in Walesmarker and the Scottish invasion involved the fighting of pitched battles and prolonged sieges. But with the defeat of the Scots at the Battle of Prestonmarker, the Royalists lost any chance of winning the war.


A plate depicting the Trial of Charles I on 4 January 1649.
Charles was moved to Hurst Castlemarker at the end of 1648, and thereafter to Windsor Castlemarker. In January 1649, in response to Charles's defiance of Parliament even after defeat, and his encouraging the second Civil War while in captivity, the House of Commons passed an Act of Parliament creating a court for Charles's trial. After the first Civil War, the parliamentarians accepted the premise that the King, although wrong, had been able to justify his fight, and that he would still be entitled to limited powers as King under a new constitutional settlement. It was now felt that by provoking the second Civil War even while defeated and in captivity, Charles showed himself incorrigible, dishonourable, and responsible for unjustifiable bloodshed.

The idea of trying a king was a novel one; previous monarchs had been deposed, but had never been brought to trial as monarchs. The High Court of Justice established by the Act consisted of 135 Commissioners but only about half of that number ever sat in judgement (all firm Parliamentarians); the prosecution was led by Solicitor General John Cooke.

His trial on charges of high treason and "other high crimes" began on 20 January 1649, but Charles refused to enter a plea, claiming that no court had jurisdiction over a monarch. He believed that his own authority to rule had been given to him by God and by the traditions and laws of England when he was crowned and anointed, and that the power wielded by those trying him was simply that which grew out of a barrel of gunpowder. In fact, when urged to enter a plea, he stated his objection with the words: "I would know by what power I am called hither, by what lawful authority...?" The court, by contrast, proposed an interpretation of the law that legitimized the trial, which was founded on

"...the fundamental proposition that the King of England was not a person, but an office whose every occupant was entrusted with a limited power to govern ‘by and according to the laws of the land and not otherwise’.

The trial began with a moment of high drama. After the proceedings were declared open, Solicitor General John Cooke rose to announce the indictment; standing immediately to the right of the King, he began to speak, but he had uttered only a few words when Charles attempted to stop him by tapping him sharply on the shoulder with his cane and ordering him to "Hold". Cooke ignored this and continued, so Charles poked him a second time and rose to speak; despite this, Cooke continued his speech.

At this point Charles, incensed at being thus ignored, struck Cooke across the shoulder so forcefully that the ornate silver tip of the cane broke off, rolled down Cooke's gown and clattered onto the floor between them. Charles then ordered Cooke to pick it up, but Cooke again ignored him, and after a long pause, Charles stooped to retrieve it.

Over a period of a week, when Charles was asked to plead three times, he refused. It was then normal practice to take a refusal to plead as pro confesso: an admission of guilt, which meant that the prosecution could not call witnesses to its case. However, the trial did hear witnesses. Fifty-nine of the Commissioners signed Charles's death warrant, possibly at the Red Lion Inn in Stathern, Leicestershire on 29 January 1649.

After the ruling, he was led from St. James's Palacemarker, where he was confined, to the Palace of Whitehallmarker, where an execution scaffold had been erected in front of the Banqueting Housemarker.


This contemporary German print depicts Charles I's decapitation.
Charles was beheaded on Tuesday, 30 January 1649. At the execution it is reputed that he wore two cotton shirts as to prevent the cold weather causing any noticeable shivers that the crowd could have mistaken for fear or weakness. He put his head on the block after saying a prayer and signalled the executioner when he was ready; he was then beheaded with one clean stroke. His last words were, "I shall go from a corruptible to an incorruptible Crown, where no disturbance can be."

Philip Henry records that moments after the execution, a moan was heard from the assembled crowd, some of whom then dipped their handkerchiefs in his blood, thus starting the cult of the Martyr King. However, no other eyewitness source, including Samuel Pepys, records this. Henry's account was written during the Restoration, some 12 years after the event though Henry was 19 when the King was executed and he and his family were Royalist propaganda writers.

The executioner was masked, and there is some debate over his identity. It is known that the Commissioners approached Richard Brandon, the common Hangman of London, but that he refused, and contemporary sources do not generally identify him as the King's headsman. Ellis's Historical Inquiries, however, names him as the executioner, contending that he stated so before dying. It is possible he relented and agreed to undertake the commission, but there are others who have been identified. An Irishman named Gunning is widely believed to have beheaded Charles, and a plaque naming him as the executioner is on show in the Kings Head pub inGalwaymarker, Irelandmarker. William Hewlett was convicted of regicide after the Restoration. In 1661, two people identified as "Dayborne and Bickerstaffe" were arrested but then discharged. Henry Walker, a revolutionary journalist, or his brother William, were suspected but never charged. Various local legends around England name local worthies. An examination performed in 1813 at Windsor suggests that the execution was done by an experienced headsman.

It was common practice for the head of a traitor to be held up and exhibited to the crowd with the words "Behold the head of a traitor!" Although Charles's head was exhibited, the words were not used. In an unprecedented gesture, one of the revolutionary leaders, Oliver Cromwell, allowed the King's head to be sewn back onto his body so the family could pay its respects. Charles was buried in private on the night of 7 February 1649, inside the Henry VIII vault in St George's Chapelmarker, Windsor Castle. The royal retainers Sir Thomas Herbert, Capt. Anthony Mildmay, Sir Henry Firebrace, William Levett Esq. and Abraham Dowcett (sometimes spelled Dowsett) conveyed the King's body to Windsor. The King's son, King Charles II, later planned an elaborate royal mausoleum, but it was never built.

Ten days after Charles's execution, a memoir purporting to be from Charles's hand appeared for sale. This book, the Eikon Basilike (Greek: the "Royal Portrait"), contained an apologia for royal policies, and it proved an effective piece of royalist propaganda. William Levett, Charles's groom of the bedchamber, who accompanied Charles on the day of his execution, swore that he had personally witnessed the King writing the Eikon Basilike. John Cooke published the speech he would have delivered if Charles had entered a plea, while Parliament commissioned John Milton to write a rejoinder, the Eikonoklastes ("The Iconoclast"), but the response made little headway against the pathos of the royalist book.

Various omens were recorded in the contemporary popular press in relation to the execution - a beached whale at Dovermarker died within an hour of the King; a falling star appeared that night over Whitehall; a man who had said that the King deserved to die had his eyes pecked out by crows.


With the monarchy overthrown, and the Commonwealth of England declared, power was assumed by a Council of State, which included Lord Fairfax, then Lord General of the Parliamentary Army, and Oliver Cromwell. The Long Parliament (known by then as the Rump Parliament) which had been called by Charles I in 1640 continued to exist (with varying influence) until Cromwell forcibly disbanded it completely in 1653. Cromwell then became Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland; a monarch in all but name: he was even "invested" on the royal coronation chair. Upon his death in 1658, Cromwell was briefly succeeded by his son, Richard Cromwell. Richard Cromwell was an ineffective ruler, and the Long Parliament was reinstated in 1659. The Long Parliament dissolved itself in 1660, and the first elections in twenty years led to the election of a Convention Parliament which restored Charles I's eldest son to the monarchy as Charles II. Following the Restoration, Oliver Cromwell was exhumed and posthumously beheaded.

Republicanism thus had a brief tenure in British governance, but nevertheless, the monarchy never regained the heights of power it had experienced under the Tudors and early Stuarts. Moreover, continued fears concerning the accession of a Catholic heir, and consequent persecution of the Protestant Church (as under 'bloody' Mary I), or foreign intervention by the Hapsburgs or French, meant that the right of succession was closely guarded. Ultimately, in the conflict between William III, and James II, it was William, the foreign usurper, who became the popular defender of Protestantism. Throughout the 19th century Parliament gradually assumed greater effective control of British government, whereby the king's prime minister became the de facto leader of the United Kingdom.

The Colony of Carolina in North America was named after Charles I, as was the major city of Charlestonmarker. Carolina later separated into North Carolinamarker and South Carolinamarker, which eventually declared independence from Great Britain during the formation of the United Statesmarker. To the north in the Virginia Colony, Cape Charlesmarker, the Charles Rivermarker, Charles River Shire, and Charles City Shire were named after him. Charles personally named the Charles River after himself. Charles City Shire survives almost 400 years later as Charles City County, Virginiamarker. The Virginia Colony is now the Commonwealth of Virginiamarker and retains its official nickname of "The Old Dominion" bestowed by Charles II because it had remained loyal to Charles I during the English Civil War.

English furniture produced during the reign of Charles I is distinctive and is commonly characterised as Charles I period.


During the reign of his son Charles II, Charles was venerated a Saint by the Anglican Church. He is considered a martyr who died for the preservation of Apostolic Succession in the Anglican Church. There are many societies dedicated to his devotion. He is the only person ever officially venerated by the Anglican Church.


Archbishop William Laud described Charles as "A mild and gracious prince who knew not how to be, or how to be made, great."

Ralph Dutton says - "In spite of his intelligence and cultivation, Charles was curiously inept in his contacts with human beings. Socially, he was tactless and diffident, and his manner was not helped by his stutter and thick Scottish accent, while in public he was seldom able to make a happy impression."

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Titles and styles

  • 19 November 1600 – 27 March 1625: Prince (or Lord) Charles
  • 23 December 1603 – 27 March 1625: The Duke of Albany
  • 6 January 1605 – 27 March 1625: The Duke of York
  • 6 November 1612 – 27 March 1625: The Duke of Cornwall
  • 4 November 1616 – 27 March 1625: The Prince of Wales
  • 27 March 1625 – 30 January 1649: His Majesty The King

During his time as heir apparent, Charles held the titles of Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester, Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, Duke of York, Duke of Albany, Marquess of Ormond, Earl of Carrick, Earl of Ross, Baron Renfrew, Lord Ardmannoch, Lord of the Isles, Prince and Great Steward of Scotland.

The official style of Charles I was "Charles, by the Grace of God, King of England, France and Ireland, King of Scots, Defender of the Faith, etc." (The claim to Francemarker was only nominal, and was asserted by every English King from Edward III to George III, regardless of the amount of French territory actually controlled.) The authors of his death warrant, however, did not wish to use the religious portions of his title. It referred to him only as "Charles Stuart, King of England".



As Duke of York, Charles bore the arms of the kingdom, differenced by a label argent of three points, each bearing three torteaux gules. As Prince of Wales he bore the arms of the kingdom, differenced by a label argent of three points. Whilst he was King, Charles I's arms were: Quarterly, I and IV Grandquarterly, Azure three fleurs-de-lis Or (for France) and Gules three lions passant guardant in pale Or (for England); II Or a lion rampant within a tressure flory-counter-flory Gules (for Scotland); III Azure a harp Or stringed Argent (for Ireland).


Of Charles's 14 great-great-grandparents, 5 were German, 4 Scottish, 1 English, 2 French, 1 Danish and 1 Polish, giving him a thoroughly cosmopolitan background.

Marriage and issue

Charles was father to a total of seven legitimate children, two of whom would eventually succeed him as king. His wife also had two stillbirths.

Charles is also believed to have had a daughter, prior to his marriage with Henrietta Maria. Her name was Joanna Brydges, born 1619-20, the daughter of a Miss Brydges ("a member of a younger branch of the ancient Kentish family of that name"), possibly from the line of Brydges of Chandos and Sudeley. Joanna Brydges, who was provided for by the estate of Mandinam, Carmarthenshire, was brought up in secrecy at Glamorgan, Wales. She went on to become second wife to Bishop Jeremy Taylor, author of Holy Living and Holy Dying and chaplain to both Archbishop Laud and Charles I. The Bishop and his wife Joanna Brydges left for Ireland, where Jeremy Taylor became Bishop of Down, Connor and Dromore in 1660. Joanna Brydges and Jeremy Taylor had several children, including two daughters, Joanna Taylor (Harrison) and Mary Taylor (Marsh).

Name Birth Death Notes
Charles II, King of England, Scotland and Ireland 29 May 1630 6 February 1685 Married Catherine of Braganza (1638 - 1705) in 1663. No legitimate issue. Charles II is believed to have fathered such illegitimate children as James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, who later rose against James VII and II.
Mary, Princess Royal 4 November 1631 24 December 1660 Married William II, Prince of Orange (1626 - 1650) in 1641. She had one child: William III of England
James VII and II, King of England, Scotland and Ireland 14 October 1633 16 September 1701 Married (1) Anne Hyde (1637 - 1671) in 1659. Had issue including Mary II of England and Anne of England;

Married (2) Mary of Modena (1658 - 1718) in 1673. Had issue.
Elizabeth, Princess of England 29 December 1635 8 September 1650 No issue.
Anne, Princess of England 17 March 1637 8 December 1640 Died young.
Henry, Duke of Gloucester 8 July 1640 18 September 1660 No issue.
Henrietta Anne, Princess of England 16 June 1644 30 June 1670 Married Philip I, Duke of Orléans (1640 - 1701) in 1661. Had legitimate issue. Among her descendants were the kings of Sardinia and Italy.

See also


Further reading

  • pp. 211-235

External links

Books about Charles I available online

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