|King of England and Ireland
27 Mar 1625 - 30 Jan 1649
|King of Scots
27 Mar 1625 - 30 Jan 1649
Charles I of England (19 Nov 1600 – 30 Jan 1649), was monarch of the three kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution on 30 January 1649 at Whitehall Palace in London.
Charles Stuart was born 19 November 1600 at Dumferline, Fife, Scotland. He was the second son of James VI of Scotland and his wife Anne of Denmark. His older brother, Henry Frederick Stuart, was the heir apparent. On 23 December Charles was formally christened in the royal chapel at Holyrood House. On that day he was also created Duke of Albany, Marquess of Ormonde, Earl of Ross, and Baron of Ardmannoch in the Scottish peerage.
In March 1603, after the death of England's Queen Elizabeth I, James Stuart succeeded to her throne as King James I. Charles, a sickly child, was left in Scotland while the rest of his family moved to the English court. On 6 January 1605, finally in England, he was invested with the title Duke of York, traditional for the second son of the English monarch. On 6 November 1612, Prince Henry leaving Charles, James' only surviving son, as heir apparent to his father's thrones. On 4 November 1616, Charles was invested as Prince of Wales.
The only other sibling of Charles who lived to adulthood was his older sister Elizabeth, who married Frederick, the Elector Palatine, on 14 February 1613, the wedding having to be postponed for the mourning for Prince Henry. In 1619, some Protestant nobles of Bohemia offered Frederick the Bohemian crown to keep it from the Catholic Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, soon to become Holy Roman Emperor. Frederick unwisely accepted the crown; in 1620, Ferdinand drove him out of Bohemia, and shortly afterward, from the Palatinate, into exile. Thus began the 30 Years War.
The marriage of princes was primarily a matter of diplomacy. Until Charles I, it had been over half a century since an English monarch had taken a spouse. Religion was a central issue in these alliances, with the English having acquired a pathological hatred of "Popery"; thus they approved when Elizabeth Stuart married the Protestant Elector Palatine. But James was also ambitious to marry his son to the Infanta Maria of Spain. James unrealistically thought Phillip IV of Spain would oppose Emperor Ferdinand in the matter of the Palatinate; Phillip unrealistically wanted to convert England back to Catholicism.
In 1623, Prince Charles, now of age, indulged his romantic fantasies by traveling to Spain to promote his own marriage suit. It failed, and Charles unwisely took this personally and, egged on by his favorite, George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, he decided to make war on Spain to avenge his slighted honor.
Spain was the more powerful nation, so Charles looked for an alliance with France. After he succeeded to the throne on 27 March 1625, he courted Marie Henriette, daughter of King Henry IV and sister of Louis XIII. They were married in May 1625 by proxy at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris; a second ceremony was held 13 June at the church of St Augustine, Canterbury.
The union between Charles and Henrietta (as she was known in England) eventually became a particularly loyal one, but there were difficulties at the beginning, when Henrietta was jealous of the influence of Charles' favorite, Buckingham.  Parliament was also unhappy about having a Catholic queen who had pledged personal loyalty to the Pope, and concerned, with good reason, that the heirs to the throne might be brought up in that religion.  During the marriage negotiations with France, Charles had promised to lift the penalties imposed on English Catholics, but instead, to placate Parliament, he decreed their enforcement. This was one of the earlier known instances of Charles' failure to honor his official promises.
Charles, under the influence of Buckingham, was avid for war with Spain, but he seemed quite unaware of what such a war must cost. England had no standing army and its navy was riddled with neglect. War, in 17th century England, was financed by Parliament. The Parliament of 1624 voted funding for it, but at a level profoundly inadequate for 17th century warfare. No one in charge truly grasped the realities of finance at the scale required.
The war, once begun, went badly. An expedition sent in 1625 to attack Cadiz was an utter failure, with a great loss of ships and men.  At the same time, the alliance with France was failing. In 1627, Parliament discovered that Charles had lent English ships to Louis XIII for his war against the Huguenot Protestant stronghold at La Rochelle; the outrage resulted in the decision to switch sides and support the besieged Huguenots. At this point, England was at war with the three most powerful states in Europe. A naval expedition under the command of Buckingham sent to take the Island of Rhé, gateway to La Rochelle, was a disaster and waste of all the money raised to fund it. Those soldiers and sailors who survived were left unpaid, provoking mutinies.
By 1628, the relations between king and Parliament had entirely broken down. The breach centered on two main issues. First, the Duke of Buckingham, whom Parliament blamed for the failure of the military expeditions. Charles refused to admit the possibility that a man so close to himself could be blamed. This problem was solved on 23 August 1628, when Buckingham was assassinated by a soldier who had served under him at Rhé. 
The more serious issue was that of finance, when Charles resorted to methods declared illegal by Parliament, notably a Forced Loan. Landowners had been imprisoned without trial after their refusal to pay. The king also imposed martial law on the nation, forcing civilians to bear the expenses of billeting and maintaining the troops impressed for the war.
The 1628 Parliament, led by Sir Edward Coke, decided to take a stand, formulating what became known as the Petition of Right, which protected individuals from taxation not authorized by Parliament, while confirming older rights such as habeas corpus. When the House of Lords, which normally stood on the side of the king, backed the Petition, Charles appeared to capitulate, but he reserved his royal prerogative, which meant that in fact his word was again shown to be meaningless.
In 1629, Charles dissolved Parliament and resolved to rule by prerogative alone. After the fall of La Rochelle in that year, he made peace with France and with Spain the next. Although he continued to exert pressure for the restoration of the Palatinate to Frederick, his efforts were futile and only diminished the Exchequer.
The first eight years of the personal rule were doubtless the happiest of Charles's life. His household was orderly and his marriage became harmonious; most of his children were born in that decade - Charles was a notably fond father.
Freed from the burden of wars that the condition of England could not support, Charles managed to put the state's finances on a sounder basis. His levy of Ship Money from the entire country, against precedent, was widely opposed, though supported by the intimidated courts. With the funds raised, he strengthened the navy on which, as an island nation, England depended. He also was able to deploy an occupation army in Ireland, led by the efficient Thomas Wentworth.
It was Charles' introduction of reforms in the church which were to have drastic consequences. Beginning in the earlier part of the decade, a movement arose, primarily at Oxford, to challenge the prevailing Calvinism. Charles was not interested in theological debate, but he approved the emphasis on uniformity of ceremony - "the beauty of holiness" - promoted by churchmen like William Laud, whom he made Archbishop of Canterbury in 1633. To the puritans, such alterations as the use of the Book of Common Prayer and the surplice worn by the minister, the railed-off altar where parishioners must kneel, the de-emphasis of preaching, were all reversions to hated "popery".
Laud was not one to lead by mere example; he mandated conformity and sent commissions into the parishes to enforce it. Many puritan ministers refused to conform to the new regulations; some lost their benefices, some emigrated overseas. But the real religious conflict came from Scotland, where the Kirk had been presbyterian for generations.
Charles was king of Scotland, but he had little use for his birthplace; he had not visited there since childhood, until 1633, when he held a long-delayed coronation at Holyrood. This ceremony offended the puritan sensibilities of the Kirk. According, Charles decided to force religious uniformity on Scotland by producing a new prayer book, modeled on the English one. It was introduced in 1637 and immediately provoked riots, as being too close to the Catholic Mass.
A Scottish National Covenant took rapid shape, abolishing both prayer book and bishops. Charles, unable as always to admit he had been wrong, replied, "I will be obeyed." In 1639, still without a standing army or funds sufficient for war, the king marched to Berwick on the the Scottish border with a militia force, where he found that he was outmanned by a superior army. His own unpaid forces disintegrating, Charles retreated.
In 1640, Charles brought Wentworth from Ireland and raised him to the peerage as the Earl of Strafford. Strafford pledged the use of his troops in Ireland to support an invasion of Scotland. Charles called a Parliament to obtain funding, but Parliament was more interested in its accumulated grievances and was quickly dissolved in May. In August, before Strafford's troops from Ireland could arrive, the Scots invaded England and defeated Charles' makeshift force at the Battle of Newburn, occupying Newcastle.
The defeated King Charles was forced to call another Parliament, which opened on 3 November 1640. He sent for Strafford to attend, promising that he ‘should not suffer in his person, honour, or fortune.’ Parliament immediately indicted Strafford and condemned him to death with a Bill of Attainder that Charles, to his lifelong shame, signed after mobs besieged Whitehall, threatening the queen.
Relations between king and Parliament continued to deteriorate until they led to open warfare when, on 22 August 1642, Charles raised his royal banner at Nottingham. If he expected the country to rush to his standard, some did; others went to the standard of Parliament. If he expected the war to be over by Christmas, it dragged on until his surrender on 27 April 1647. Even then, after his escape from Parliamentary custody in the next year, he allied with the Scots to start yet a new round of fighting.
By the time the king was once more its prisoner, the radical army faction of Parliament was out of patience with him, and with the moderate faction's fruitless attempts at negotiations to return him to his throne - under conditions there was good reason to suspect Charles would never honor.
Charles was tried and sentenced to die on 30 January 1649. The night before his execution, two of his children in Parliament's custody - Elizabeth and eight-year-old Henry, Duke of Gloucester - were allowed a final visit. Elizabeth later wrote an account, found among her effects at her death in 1650:
Then, taking my brother Gloucester on his knee, he said, 'Sweetheart, now they will cut off thy father's head.' And Gloucester looking very intently upon him, he said again, 'Heed, my child, what I say: they will cut off my head and perhaps make thee a king. But mark what I say. Thou must not be a king as long as thy brothers Charles and James do live; for they will cut off your brothers' heads when they can catch them, and cut off thy head too at the last, and therefore I charge you, do not be made a king by them.'
The body of King Charles I was embalmed and buried 9 February in the Henry VIII vault of the St George Chapel of Windsor Castle. On that same day, a book called Eikon Basilike (Image of the Prince) appeared, purportedly written by Charles: "The Pourtrature of His Sacred Majestie in His Solitudes and Sufferings." This work, despite the efforts of Milton to refute it, succeeded in establishing the executed king as a martyr in the public mind, and contributed towards the wish for the restoration of the monarchy, which took place in 1660. On 19 May of that year, the restored church formally canonized King Charles as a martyr.
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