Charles I


Portrait of Charles I Born: 19th November 1600, Dunfermline Palace, Fife, Scotland
Died: 30th January 1649, London, England
Allegiance: Royalist
Position: King of England, Commander-in-Chief of Royalist army
Charles was the second son of James VI and Anne of Denmark.

As a child he was weak and sickly. Charles was dependent on his older brother, Henry, until Henry died of smallpox in 1612 and Charles became heir to the throne. When his sister left the country he was lonely and became very withdrawn.

Everyone who met him was impressed with his excellent manners, but he was completely out of touch with the commoners throughout his life.

Charles became king in 1625 and married Henrietta Maria, sister of the French king Louis XIII, soon afterwards.

Charles believed in the "divine right of kings", that he was answerable only to God, and that no mortal subject should question his judgement. This was to embitter those who saw the faults in his decisions.

"It is for me to decide how our nation is to be governed, how my subjects are to be ruled and above all how the Church shall be established under the rule of law. These are the Divine Rights of Kings and are ordained by the Almighty. It is not the place of the subject to question the royal prerogative."
Charles I.

He fell out with parliament almost immediately over religious differences and foreign policies. He found the unruly commons difficult to get on with.

Rather than deal with parliament, he collected money for his expensive foreign campaigns from nobles and knights, arresting anyone who wouldn't pay what he demanded. Parliament condemned this arbitrary taxation and imprisonment, and Charles dismissed parliament for their revolutionary remarks.

Charles ruled for 11 years without a parliament, introducing the collection of ship money in ports, and later inland as well, to keep money coming in to the royal coffers.

However, when he tried to introduce religious reforms in Scotland, he met with resistance that lead to the bishops wars in 1639 and 1640. Charles was forced to call parliament in order to raise more funds.

In extracting funds from parliament, Charles had to agree to giving them more power. They were allowed to reconvene every three years without being called, and could not be dismissed without their own consent.

Parliament then went too far, when they attempted to gain control of the army by passing a militia bill. Charles used this as an excuse to arrest five of his opponents in the commons and one in the lords. Pre-warned, though, they were away from parliament when Charles arrived with 400 troops.

Differences escalated, and Charles declared war on parliament by raising his standard at Nottingham (Aug 22 1642).

His first objective was to take London, but he failed after being met by two parliamentary forces, and turned back to Oxford. He remained in Oxford throughout the first civil war.

The royalist forces were eventually defeated by the New Model Army, and Charles fled to Scotland. The Scots ransomed him back to parliament, and he was held at Holmby House.

The army, who were now at odds with parliament, kidnapped Charles and took him to Newmarket. However he escaped, and stayed on the Isle of Wight whilst he negotiated a new agreement with the Scots.

The Scottish invaded England, but were defeated by the still powerful army. This was the second civil war.

This new attempt against parliament went against Charles, and a trial was organised, with Charles accused of treason. He was found guilty and beheaded in Whitehall (Jan 30 1649).

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