KING CHARLES I 1600-1649


Born 19 November 1600 in Dunfermline, the fourth child and second son of King James VI of Scotland who became in 1603 King of England, and his wife Anne, 2nd daughter of Frederick II, King of Denmark and Norway. He was created Duke of Albany in 1603, Duke of York in 1605 and in 1616 he was created Prince of Wales.

It was the death of the talented elder brother, Henry Frederick Prince of Wales in 1612 brought him into the position of heir to the throne. His beloved only surviving sister Elizabeth left the country in 1613 to live in Germany so Charles found himself in the position of being an only child. He was a sickly child and had not travelled to England until 1604. Under the care of Lady Carey he developed his walking abilities and conquered his stammering.   He travelled to Spain whilst a young man secretly to court an Infanta of Spain, unsuccessfully. 

In 1625 he succeeded his father and soon after married a Catholic French Princess Henrietta Maria, the daughter of the dissolute Henry IV and his second wife Marie de Medici. The marriage was a successful one in some ways as there is no recorded mistress for Charles and they had many children over the period 1629-1644. She was known in England by her contempories as Queen Mary. Their eldest daughter, Mary, the first Princess Royal 1631-1661, was married at 9 to the Prince of Orange and was mother of the Great General William III Prince of Orange and King of England.

Charles' weakness was that he believed like his father in the 'divine right of kings', thus believing that the king was above the law and answerable only to God. Further to this the king was above parliament. He fell out with Parliament as a consequence to this and dissolved three times and finally abolished it in 1629. There was to be no other rule than his for 11 years.

Charles was actually a very cultured man and collected a large collection of art, including many works by Van Dyck.

The King raised money by selling monopolies and by instituting a 'ship money' tax. Things came to a head when he entered the House of Commons with an armed guard and demanded the arrest of five Members of Parliament who had opposed him (they managed to escape). It was the final straw, Charles left London and the first Civil War began.

Despite help from foreign relatives (his impoverished Palatinate nephews Princes Rupert and Maurice - rather than the government of his wife's nephew Louis XIV King of France) Charles failed to win the first War and surrendered in 1646 to the Scots (his father was the King of Scotland and he was born there so he expected loyalty) who handed him to the English.

In 1648 Charles was brought to trial in Westminster Hall before 135 judges and found guilty by 68 votes to 67.

Charles faced his execution on the 30 January 1649 at Whitehall. He was beheaded on a specially built scaffold. The crowd groaned as the act took place. Later that day Cromwell was heard to say over the body of Charles 'cruel necessity'. He was buried on the 7 February 1649.

Henrietta Maria lived on until 1669 and died in Paris. She lived long enough to see her daughter Henrietta Anne married to her dissolute cousin Philip of France, Duke of Orleans in 1661, and for her dissolute son Charles to be restored to the throne as King Charles II.

Civil War Home Main Home page E-mail