King Charles I 19 November 1600 – 30 January 1649 was monarch of the three kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649
King of England, Scotland and Ireland
19 November 1600 – 30 January 1649
19 November 1600
Dunfermline Palace, Scotland
30 January 1649 (aged 48)
9 February 1649
St George’s Chapel
Henrietta Maria of France
1 Charles James, Duke of Cornwall and Rothesay
13 May 1629-13 May 1629 Born and died the same
day. Buried as “Charles, Prince of Wales”
2 Charles II
29 May 1630-6 February 1685
.Married Catherine of Braganza
(1638–1705) in 1662.
.No legitimate liveborn issue.
3 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.
4 James II (E) & VII (S)
14 October 1633-6 September 1701
.Married (1) Anne Hyde in 1659.
Had children including Mary II
and Anne, Queen of Great Britain.
.Married (2) Mary of Modena
in 1673. had 12 children non
lived to adulthood.
.Had 27 children with 4 women
5 Princess Elizabeth
29 December 1635-8 September 1650
6 Princess Anne
17 March 1637-5 November 1640
7 Princess Catherine
29 June 1639-29 June 1639
8 Henry, Duke of Gloucester
8 July 1640-13 September 1660
9 Princess Henrietta
16 June 1644-30 June 1670
.Married Philip, Duke of Orléans
(1640–1701) in 1661.
.Had 2 surviving children
Marie Louise d’Orléans,
Anne Marie d’Orléans
House of Stuart
James I of England
and VI of Scotland
Anne of Denmark
The second son of King James VI of
Scotland and Anne of Denmark, Charles
was born in Dunfermline Palace Fife
on 19 November 1600.
At a Protestant ceremony in the Chapel
Royal at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh on 23 December 1600, he was baptised and created Duke of Albanythe traditional title of the second son of the King of Scotland, with the subsidiary titles of Marquess of Ormond, Earl of Ross and Lord Ardmannoch.
His father James VI was the first cousin twice removed of Queen Elizabeth I of England, and when she died childless in March 1603, he became King of England as James I.
Charles was a weak and sickly infant, and while his parents and older siblings left for England in April and early June 1603 , due to his fragile health, he remained in Scotland with his father’s friend Lord Fyvie, appointed as his guardian.
In mid-July 1604, Charles left for England where he was to spend most of the rest of his life. In England he was placed in the care of Elizabeth, Lady Carey, the wife of courtier Sir Robert Carey, who put him in boots made of Spanish leather and brass to strengthen his weak ankles. His speech development was slow, and he retained a stammer, or hesitant speech for the rest of his life.
In January 1605, Charles was created Duke of York, as is customary in the case of the English sovereign’s second son, and made a Knight of the Bath.
Charles conquered his physical infirmity which may have been caused by rickets. He became an adept horseman and marksman and took up fencing. His public profile remained low in contrast to that of his physically stronger and taller elder brother, Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, whom Charles adored and attempted to emulate.
However in early November 1612 Henry died at the age of 18 of what is suspected to have been typhoid. Prince Henry’s death was widely regarded as a tragedy for the nation.
Charles, who turned 12 two weeks later became heir apparent.
In 1613, his sister Elizabeth married Frederick V, Elector Palatine, and moved to Heidelberg.
James had been seeking marriage between his son and Ferdinand V’s niece, Habsburg princess Maria Anna of Spain, and began to see the Spanish match as a possible diplomatic means of achieving peace in Europe. Unfortunately negotiation with Spain proved generally unpopular, both with the public and with James’s court.
Charles, like his father, considered the discussion of his marriage in the Commons impertinent and an infringement of his father’s royal prerogative. In January 1622, James dissolved Parliament angry at what he perceived as the members’ impudence and intransigence.
In early 1623, Prince Charles decided to seize the initiative and travel to Spain incognito, to win the infanta directly but the mission proved an ineffectual mistake.
The Infanta thought Charles as an infidel and the Spanish demanded that he convert to Roman Catholicism as a condition of the match and insisted on toleration of Catholics in England which Charles knew would never be agreed by Parliament.
A quarrel erupted between Buckingham (James’s favourite) and the Count of Olivares the Spanish chief minister, and so Charles conducted the ultimately futile negotiations personally. When Charles returned to London in October without a bride and to a rapturous and relieved public welcome, he and Buckingham pushed a reluctant King James to declare war on Spain.
James told Buckingham he was a fool and presciently warned his son that he would live to regret the revival of impeachment as a parliamentary tool.
In early 1625, King James was plagued by severe attacks of arthritis, gout, and fainting fits, and fell seriously ill in March with tertian ague and then suffered a stroke. He died at Theobalds House on 27 March during a violent attack of dysentery.
Searching elsewhere for a bride Charles looked to France. He first met Henrietta Maria of France in Paris, in 1623, while he was travelling to Spain. Charles first saw her at a French court entertainment.
The couple married on 13 June 1625 in Canterbury. He was 24, she was 15. He delayed the opening of his Parliament until after the second ceremony, to forestall any opposition. Many members of the Commons were opposed to the king’s marriage to a Roman Catholic, fearing he would lift restrictions on Catholic recusants and undermine the Church of England.
The new Queen brought to England a huge quantity of expensive possessions including diamonds, pearls, rings, diamond buttons, satin and velvet gowns, embroidered cloaks, skirts, velvet chapelles; 10,000 livres worth of plate, chandeliers, pictures, books, vestments and bedroom sets for her, her ladies in waiting, twelve Oratorian priests and her pages.
Views on Henrietta Maria’s appearance vary
her niece commented that…
The marriage did not begin well. Initially their relationship was frigid and argumentative, and Henrietta Maria took an immediate dislike to the Duke of Buckingham the King’s favourite.
Charles was crowned on 2 February 1626 at Westminster Abbey, but without his wife at his side because she refused to participate in a Protestant religious ceremony.
Gold ampulla used in the coronation of Charles I. The ampulla held the oil with which the king was anointed. It was used along with the Honours of Scotland. This crown, sword and sceptre date from the late 15th and early 16th centuries and were first brought together for the coronation service of Charles’ grandmother the nine month old Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1543.
Distrust of Charles’s religious policies increased with his support of an anti- Calvinist ecclesiastic, Richard Montagu, who was in disrepute among the Puritans. In his pamphlet A New Gag for an Old Goose (1624) a reply to the Catholic pamphlet A New Gag for the New Gospel, Montagu argued against Calvinist predestination, the doctrine that salvation and damnation were preordained by God.
Rather than direct involvement in the European land war the English Parliament preferred a relatively inexpensive naval attack on Spanish colonies in the New World, hoping for the capture of the Spanish treasure fleets.
A poorly conceived and executed naval expedition against Spain under the leadership of Buckingham went badly and the House of Commons began proceedings for the impeachment of the duke.
In May 1626, Charles nominated Buckingham as Chancellor of Cambridge University in a show of support, and had two members who had spoken against Buckingham – Dudley Digges and Sir John Eliot – arrested at the door of the House. The Commons was outraged by the imprisonment of two of their members, and after about a week in custody both were released.
On 12 June 1626, the Commons launched a direct
protestation attacking Buckingham, stating…
Despite Parliament’s protests, however, Charles refused to dismiss his friend, dismissing Parliament instead.
Meanwhile, domestic quarrels between Charles and Henrietta Maria were souring the early years of their marriage. Disputes over her jointure, appointments to her household, and the practice of her religion culminated in the king expelling the vast majority of her French attendants in August 1626.
Henrietta Maria was greatly upset, and initially some – including the Bishop of Mendes – refused to leave, citing his orders from the French King. In the end, Charles had to deploy armed guards to physically eject them. Despite Charles’s orders however Henrietta Maria managed to retain seven of her French staff including her confessor Robert Phillip.
Despite Charles’s agreement to provide the French with English ships as a condition of marrying Henrietta Maria, in 1627 he launched an attack on the French coast to defend the Huguenots at La Rochelle.
The action, led by Buckingham, was ultimately unsuccessful. Buckingham’s failure to protect the Huguenots and his retreat from Saint-Martin-de-Ré spurred Louis XIII’s siege of La Rochelle and furthered the English Parliament’s and people’s detestation of the duke.
Charles provoked further unrest by trying to raise money for the war through a “forced loan” a tax levied without parliamentary consent. In November 1627, the test case in the King’s Bench, the “Five Knights’ Case”, found that the king had a prerogative right to imprison without trial those who refused to pay the forced loan.
The Five Knights’ case Thomas Darnell, John Corbet, Walter Earle, John Heveningham, and Edmund Hampden petitioned King’s Bench for a writ of habeas corpus to be set free. The attorney general replied that they were being held “by the special command of his majesty.” The question before the court was whether this was an adequate return on the writ. The court found in favour of the King, since common law had no control over the royal or absolute prerogatives of the monarch.
The Petition of Right 1628 reversed the effect of the decision by preventing the power of arbitrary committal by the King. The Habeas Corpus Act 1640 restored the right to petition the courts for being let free against the wishes of the King and his Council.
Instead of Charles, one of Henrietta Maria’s closest companions in the early days of her marriage was Lucy Hay the wife of James Hay a gentleman of the bedchamber to Charles. Lucy was a staunch Protestant, a noted beauty and a strong personality. Many believed her to be a mistress to Buckingham, rumours which Henrietta Maria was aware of. The two were extremely close friends Lucy was one of the queen’s ladies-in-waiting
On 23 August 1628, Buckingham was assassinated. Charles was deeply distressed. According to Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon, he “threw himself upon his bed, lamenting with much passion and with abundance of tears”. He remained grieving in his room for two days.
In contrast, the public rejoiced at Buckingham’s death, which accentuated the gulf between the court and the nation, and between the Crown and the Commons.
The death of Buckingham coincide with an improvement in Charles’s relationship with his wife and by November 1628 their old quarrels were at an end. Perhaps Charles’s emotional ties were transferred from Buckingham to Henrietta Maria.
She became pregnant for the first time and the bond between them grew ever stronger. Together, they embodied an image of virtue and family life and their court became a model of formality and morality. Charles James was born on 13 May but died shortly after birth following a very difficult labour.
Charles would regularly write letters to Henrietta Maria addressed “Dear Heart.” These letters showcase the loving nature of their relationship. For example, Charles wrote “And dear Heart, thou canst not but be confident that there is no danger which I will not hazzard, or pains that I will not undergo, to enjoy the happiness of thy company”
In January 1629, Charles opened the second session of the English Parliament. Members of the House of Commons began to voice opposition to Charles’s policies in light of the case of John Rolle, a Member of Parliament whose goods had been confiscated for failing to pay tonnage and poundage. Many MPs viewed the imposition of the tax as a breach of the Petition of Right.
When Charles ordered a parliamentary adjournment on 2 March members held the Speaker Sir John Finch down in his chair so that the ending of the session could be delayed long enough for resolutions against Catholicism Arminianism and tonnage and poundage to be read out and acclaimed by the chamber.
The provocation was too much for Charles, who dissolved Parliament and had nine parliamentary leaders including John Eliot, imprisoned over the matter, thereby turning the men into martyrs, and giving popular cause to their protest.
The following eleven years, during which Charles ruled England without a Parliament, are referred to as the personal rule or the “eleven years’ tyranny”. Ruling without Parliament was not exceptional. Only Parliament however, could legally raise taxes, and without it Charles’s capacity to acquire funds for his treasury was limited to his customary rights and prerogatives.
Throughout his reign Charles was obliged to rely primarily on volunteer forces for defence and on diplomatic efforts to support his sister, Elizabeth, and his foreign policy objective for the restoration of the Palatinate. England was still the least taxed country in Europe, with no official excise and no regular direct taxation.
To raise revenue without reconvening Parliament, Charles resurrected an all but forgotten law called the “Distraint of Knighthood”, in abeyance for over a century, which required any man who earned £40 or more from land each year to present himself at the king’s coronation to be knighted. Relying on this old statute, Charles fined individuals who had failed to attend his coronation in 1626.
The chief tax imposed by Charles was a feudal levy known as ship money, paid directly to the Treasury of the Navy provided between £150,000 to £200,000 annually between 1634 and 1638, after which yields declined. Opposition to ship money steadily grew, but the 12 common law judges of England declared that the tax was within the king’s prerogative, though some of them had reservations.
The king also derived money through the granting of monopolies, despite a statute forbidding such action, which, though inefficient, raised an estimated £100,000 a year in the late 1630s. One such monopoly was for soap, pejoratively referred to as “popish soap” because some of its backers were Catholics.
Charles II was born at St James’s Palace on 29 May 1630. He was baptised in the Chapel Royal, on 27 June, His godparents included his maternal uncle Louis XIII and his maternal grandmother, Marie de’ Medici the Dowager Queen of France, both of whom were Catholics.
Throughout Charles’s reign, the issue of how far the English Reformation should progress was constantly brought to the forefront of political debate. Arminian theology emphasised clerical authority and the individual’s ability to reject or accept salvation, and was consequently viewed as heretical and a potential for the reintroduction of Roman Catholicism by its Calvinist opponents.
Charles’s sympathy to the teachings of Arminianism and his wish to move the Church of England away from Calvinism in a more traditional and sacramental direction were perceived by Puritans as irreligious tendencies. Charles’s Protestant subjects followed news of the European war closely and grew increasingly dismayed by Charles’ diplomacy with Spain and his failure to support the Protestant cause abroad effectively
Mary Henrietta Mary, Princess Royal was born 4 November 1631 at St. James’s Palace. Charles I designated her Princess Royal in 1642, thus establishing the tradition that the eldest daughter of the British sovereign might bear this title. The title came into being when Queen Henrietta Maria the daughter of King Henry IV of France wished to imitate the way the eldest daughter of the French king was styled (Madame Royale).
Henrietta Maria remained sympathetic to her fellow Catholics and, in 1632, began construction of a new Catholic chapel at Somerset House. The old chapel had been deeply unpopular amongst Protestants and there had been much talk amongst London apprentices of pulling it down as an anti-Catholic gesture.
In 1633, Charles appointed William Laud as Archbishop of Canterbury. Together they began a series of anti-Calvinist reforms to ensure religious uniformity by restricting non-conformist preachers insisting that the liturgy be celebrated as prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer, organising the internal architecture of English churches so as to emphasise the sacrament of the altar.
To prosecute those who opposed his reforms Laud used the two most powerful courts in the land , the Court of High Commission and the Court of Star Chamber. The courts became feared for their censorship of opposing religious views, and became unpopular among the propertied classes for inflicting degrading punishments on gentlemen. For example, in William Prynne, Henry Burton and John Bastwick were pilloried, whipped and mutilated by cropping and imprisoned indefinitely for publishing anti-episcopal pamphlets.
When Charles attempted to impose his religious policies in Scotland he faced numerous difficulties. Although born in Scotland, he had become estranged from his northern kingdom, his first visit since early childhood was for his Scottish coronation in 1633. To the dismay of the Scots who had removed many traditional rituals from their liturgical practice Charles insisted that the coronation be conducted in the Anglican rite. James II and VII was born 14 October 1633 at St. James’s Palace.
The king ordered the use of a new prayer book in Scotland that was almost identical to the English Book, without consulting either the Scottish Parliament or the Kirk. Although written under Charles’s direction by Scottish bishopsmany Scots resisted it seeing the new prayer book as a vehicle for introducing Anglicanism. Riots erupted in Edinburgh upon the first Sunday of the prayer book’s usage, and unrest spread throughout the Kirk.
Elizabeth Stuart was born on 28 December 1635 at St James’s Palace and was baptized there on 2 January the next year by William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury. Anne Stuart was born on 17 March 1637 at St. James’s Palace
Charles perceived the unrest in Scotland as a rebellion against his authority, precipitating the First Bishops’ War in 1639. Charles did not seek subsidies from the English Parliament to wage war, but instead raised an army without parliamentary aid and marched to Berwick upon Tweed on the border of Scotland.
Charles’s army did not engage the Covenanters as the king feared the defeat of his forces, whom he believed to be significantly outnumbered by the Scots. In the Treaty of Berwick Charles regained custody of his Scottish fortresses and secured the dissolution of the Covenanters’ interim government.
The military failure in the First Bishops’ War caused a financial and diplomatic crisis for Charles that deepened when his efforts to raise funds from Spain, while simultaneously continuing his support for his Palatine relatives, led to the public humiliation of the Battle of the Downs where the Dutch destroyed a Spanish bullion fleet off the coast of Kent in sight of the impotent English navy
Henry Stuart, Duke of Gloucester was born 8 July 1640 at Oatlands Palace.
Henrietta Maria’s religious activities appear to have focused on bringing a modern 17th century European form of Catholicism to England. To some extent, it worked, here may have been up to 300,000 Catholics in England by the late 1630s they were certainly more open in court society. Charles came under increasing criticism for his failure to act to stem the flow of high-profile conversions.
Charles continued peace negotiations with the Scots in a bid to gain time before launching a new military campaign. Because of his financial weakness he was forced to call Parliament into session in an attempt to raise funds for such a venture. English and Irish parliaments were summoned in the early months of 1640.
The earls of Northumberland and Strafford attempted to broker a compromise whereby the king would agree to forfeit ship money in exchange for £650,000 (although the cost of the coming war was estimated at around £1 million). Nevertheless, this alone was insufficient to produce consensus in the Commons. The Parliamentarians’ calls for further reforms were ignored by Charles who still retained the support of the House of Lords. Despite the protests of Northumberland, the Short Parliament (as it came to be known) was dissolved in May 1640, less than a month after it assembled.
Bolstered by the failure of the English Short Parliament, the Scottish Parliament declared itself capable of governing without the king’s consent. The Scottish soldiery, had far greater morale and training compared to their English counterparts. They met virtually no resistance until reaching Newcastle upon Tyne, where they defeated the English forces at the Battle of Newburn and occupied the city, as well as the neighbouring county of Durham.
A cessation of arms, although not a final settlement, was negotiated in the humiliating Treaty of Ripon signed in October 1640. It stated that the Scots would continue to occupy Northumberland and Durham and be paid £850 per day until peace was restored and the English Parliament recalled which would be required to raise sufficient funds to pay the Scottish forces.
The Long Parliament proved just as difficult for Charles as had the Short Parliament. It assembled on 3 November 1640 and quickly began proceedings to impeach the king’s leading counsellors of high treason.
Strafford was taken into custody on 10 November; Laud was impeached on 18 December; John Finch, now Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, was impeached the following day, and he consequently fled to the Hague with Charles’s permission on 21 December.
Lord Strafford had told the King…
To prevent the king from dissolving it at will, Parliament passed the Triennial Act, which required Parliament to be summoned at least once every three years, and permitted the Lord Keeper and 12 peers to summon Parliament if the king failed to do so. The Act was coupled with a subsidy bill and so to secure the latter Charles grudgingly granted royal assent in February 1641.
Strafford had become the principal target of the Parliamentarians, particularly John Pym, and he went on trial for high treason in March 1641. However the key allegation by Sir Henry Vane that Strafford had threatened to use the Irish army to subdue England was not corroborated On 10 April Pym’s case collapsed. Pym and his allies launched a bill of attainder which declared Strafford guilty and the sentence of death.
Henrietta Maria encouraged Charles to take a firm line with Pym and his colleagues. Henrietta Maria was believed to have encouraged Charles to arrest his Parliamentary enemies in 1642, although no hard proof of this exists. The Marquis de La Ferté-Imbault, the French ambassador, was keen to avoid any damage to French prestige by an attack on the Queen, but was equally unimpressed by Charles’ record on relations with France. He advised caution and reconciliation with Pym.
Charles assured Strafford that “upon the word of a king you shall not suffer in life honour or fortune”, and the attainder could not succeed if Charles withheld assent. Furthermore, many members and most peers were opposed to the attainder, not wishing in the words of one, to “commit murder with the sword of justice”
However, increased tensions and an attempted coup by royalist army officers in support of Strafford and in which Charles was involved began to sway the issue. The Commons passed the bill on 20 April by a large margin (204 in favour, 59 opposed, and 230 abstained) and the Lords acquiesced (by 26 votes to 19, with 79 absent) in May.
Charles had made important concessions in England and temporarily improved his position in Scotland by securing the favour of the Scots on a visit from August to November 1641 during which he conceded to the official establishment of Presbyterianism. However, following an attempted royalist coup in Scotland known as “The Incident” Charles’s credibility was significantly undermined.
The Incident was a Royalist plot to kidnap a group of Scottish nobles. The plot’s targets were all prominent members of the Presbyterian Covenanter faction who opposed Charles I’s attempts to control the Scottish Church. The plot was directed against the Marquis of Argyll, the Marquis of Hamilton, and his brother the Earl of Lanark.
In Ireland, the population was split into three main socio-political groups the Gaelic Irish, who were Catholic the Old English who were descended from medieval Normans and were also predominantly Catholic and the New English, who were Protestant settlers from England and Scotland aligned with the English Parliament and the Covenanters. all three groups had become disaffected.
In November 1641, the House of Commons passed the Grand Remonstrance, a long list of grievances against actions by Charles’s ministers committed since the beginning of his reign (that were asserted to be part of a grand Catholic conspiracy of which the king was an unwitting member) but it was in many ways a step too far by Pym and passed by only 11 votes – 159 to 148.
Furthermore, the Remonstrance had very little support in the House of Lordswhich the Remonstrance attacked. Thetension was heightened by news of the Irish rebellion coupled with inaccurate rumours of Charles’s complicity. A series of alarmist pamphlets published stories of atrocities in Ireland, which included massacres of New English settlers by the native Irish.
English anti-Catholic opinion was strengthene damaging Charles’s reputation and authority. The English Parliament distrusted Charles’s motivations when he called for funds to put down the Irish rebellion; many members of the Commons suspected that forces raised by Charles might later be used against Parliament itself.
Charles suspected, probably correctly, that some members of the English Parliament had colluded with the invading Scots. On 3 January 1642, Charles directed Parliament to give up five members of the Commons Pym, John Hampden, Denzil Holles, William Strode and Sir Arthur Haselrig – and one peer – Lord Mandeville – on the grounds of high treason.
When Parliament refused, it was possibly Henrietta Maria who persuaded Charles to arrest the five members by force, which Charles intended to carry out personally. However, news of the warrant reached Parliament ahead of him, and the wanted men slipped away by boat shortly before Charles entered the House of Commons with an armed guard on 4 January.
Having displaced the Speaker, William Lenthall from his chair, the king asked him where the MPs had fled. Lenthall on his knees 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.” Charles abjectly declared “all my birds have flown”, and was forced to retire empty-handed.
The botched arrest attempt was politically disastrous for Charles. No English sovereign had ever entered the House of Commons, and his unprecedented invasion of the chamber to arrest its members was considered a grave breach of parliamentary privilege. In one stroke Charles destroyed his supporters’ efforts to portray him as a defence against innovation and disorder.
Parliament quickly seized London and Charles fled the capital for Hampton Court Palace on 10 January moving two days later to Windsor Castle. After sending his wife and eldest daughter to safety abroad in February, he travelled northwards hoping to seize the military arsenal at Hull. To his dismay, he was rebuffed by the town’s Parliamentary governor Sir John Hotham who refused him entry in April and Charles was forced to withdraw.
In 1642 Henrietta Maria was in Europe at the Hague raising money for the Royalist cause. She focused on raising money on the security of the royal jewels, and in attempting to persuade the Prince of Orange and the King of Denmark to support Charles’ cause. She was not well during this period, suffering from toothache headaches, a cold and coughs
In mid-1642, both sides began to arm. Charles raised an army using the medieval method of commission of array, and Parliament called for volunteers for its militia. Following futile negotiations Charles raised the royal standard in Nottingham on 22 August 1642.
At the start of the First English Civil War Charles’s forces controlled roughly the Midlands, Wales, the West Country and northern England. He set up his court at Oxford. Parliament controlled London, the south-east and East Anglia, as well as the English navy.
After a few skirmishes, the opposing forces met in earnest at Edgehill, on 23 October 1642. Charles’s nephew Prince Rupert of the Rhine disagreed with the battle strategy of the royalist commander Lord Lindsey, and Charles sided with Rupert. Lindsey resigned, leaving Charles to assume overall command assisted by Lord Forth
Rupert’s cavalry successfully charged through the parliamentary ranks, but instead of swiftly returning to the field, rode off to plunder the parliamentary baggage train. Lindsey, acting as a colonel, was wounded and bled to death without medical attention. The battle ended inconclusively as the daylight faded.
In his own words the experience of battle had left Charles “exceedingly and deeply grieved”. He regrouped at Oxford, turning down Rupert’s suggestion of an immediate attack on London. After a week he set out for the capital on 3 November capturing Brentford on the way while simultaneously continuing to negotiate with civic and parliamentary delegations.
At Turnham Green on the outskirts of London, the royalist army met resistance from the city militia and faced with a numerically superior force, Charles ordered a retreat. He overwintered in Oxford, strengthening the city’s defences and preparing for the next season’s campaign. Peace talks between the two sides collapsed in April.
Henrietta Maria’s strong views on religion and her social life at the court meant that, by 1642, she had become a “highly unpopular queen who apparently never successfully commanded intense personal respect and loyalty from most of her subjects”
There have been various schools of thought as to Henrietta Maria’s role in the civil war and the degree of her responsibility for the ultimate Royalist defeat. The traditional perspective on the Queen has suggested that she was a strong-willed woman who dominated her weaker-willed husband for the worst “he sought her advice on every subject except religion”
The war continued indecisively over the next couple of years, and Henrietta Maria returned to Britain for 17 months from February 1643. After Rupert captured Bristol in July 1643 Charles visited the port city and laid siege to Gloucester further up the river Severn.
His plan to undermine the city walls failed due to heavy rain and on the approach of a parliamentary relief force Charles lifted the siege and withdrew to Sudeley Castle. The parliamentary army turned back towards London, and Charles set off in pursuit.
Henrietta Maria spent the autumn and winter of 1643 in Oxford with Charles where she attempted, as best she could to maintain the pleasant court life that they had enjoyed before the war. The atmosphere in Oxford was a combination of a fortified city and a royal court and Henrietta Maria was frequently stressed with worry.
Princess Henrietta was born on 16 June 1644, on the eve of the Second Battle of Newbury at Bedford House in Exeter.
The parliamentary army turned back towards London, and Charles set off in pursuit. Th two armies met at Newbury, Berkshire, on 20 September. Just as at Edgehill, the battle stalemated at nightfall, and the armies disengaged. In January 1644, Charles summoned a Parliament at Oxford, which was attended by about 40 peers and 118 members of the Commons which sat until March 1645, was supported by the majority of peers and about a third of the Commons.
Charles became disillusioned by the assembly’s ineffectiveness, calling it a “mongrel” in private letters to his wife.
In 1644, Charles remained in the southern half of England while Rupert rode north to relieve Newark and York, which were under threat from parliamentary and Scottish Covenanter armies. Charles was victorious at the battle of Cropredy Bridge in late June, but the royalists in the north were defeated at the battle of Marston Moor just a few days later.
The king continued his campaign in the south, encircling and disarming the parliamentary army of the Earl of Essex. Returning northwards to his base at Oxford, he fought at Newbury for a second time before the winter closed in the battle ended indecisively. Attempts to negotiate a settlement over the winter, while both sides re-armed and re-organised, were again unsuccessful.
At the battle of Naseby on 14 June 1645, Rupert’s horsemen again mounted a successful charge against the flank of Parliament’s New Model Army, but Charles’s troops elsewhere on the field were pushed back by the opposing forces. Charles attempting to rally his men rode forward but as he did so Lord Carnwath seized his bridle and pulled him back, fearing for the king’s safety.
Carnwath’s action was misinterpreted by the royalist soldiers as a signal to move back, leading to a collapse of their position. The military balance tipped decisively in favour of Parliament. There followed a series of defeats for the royalists and then the Siege of Oxford from which Charles escaped (disguised as a servant) in April 1646.
With the support of the French government Henrietta Maria settled in Paris. During 1646 there was talk of Prince Charles joining Henrietta Maria in Paris, Henrietta Maria was keen, but the Prince was advised not to go, as it would portray him as a Catholic friend of France.
He put himself into the hands of the Scottish Presbyterian army besieging Newark and was taken northwards to Newcastle upon Tyne. After nine months of negotiations the Scots finally arrived at an agreement with the English Parliament in exchange for £100,000, and the promise of more money in the future, the Scots withdrew from Newcastle and delivered Charles to the parliamentary commissioners in January 1647
Parliament held Charles under house arrest at Holdenby House in Northamptonshire until Cornet George Joyce took him by threat of force from Holdenby on 3 June in the name of the New Model Army.
By this time, mutual suspicion had developed between Parliament, whichfavoured army disbandment and Presbyterianism, and the New Model Army, which was primarily officered by Independent non conformists who sought a greater political role. Charles was eager to exploit the widening divisions, and apparently viewed Joyce’s actions as an opportunity rather than a threat.
He was taken first to Newmarket, at his own suggestion and then transferred to Oatlands and subsequently Hampton Court while more ultimately fruitless negotiations took place. By November he determined that it would be in his best interests to escape – perhaps to France, Southern England or to Berwick-upon-Tweed, near he Scottish border.
He fled Hampton Court on 11 November and from the shores of Southampton Water made contact with Colonel Robert Hammond Parliamentary Governor of the Isle of Wight, whom he apparently believed to be sympathetic. Hammond, however, confined Charles in Carisbrooke Castle and informed Parliament that Charles was in his custody.
From Carisbrooke, Charles continued to try to bargain with the various parties. In direct contrast to his previous conflict with the Scottish Kirk on 26 December 1647 he signed a secret treaty with the Scots.
Under the agreement, called the “Engagement”, the Scots undertook to invade England on Charles’s behalf and restore him to the throne on condition that Presbyterianism be established in England for three years.
The royalists rose in May 1648, igniting the Second Civil War, and as agreed with Charles, the Scots invaded England. Uprisings in Kent, Essex and Cumberland and a rebellion in South Wales were put down by the New Model Army and with the defeat of the Scots at the Battle of Preston in August 1648 the royalists lost any chance of winning the war.
Charles’s only recourse was to return to negotiations which were held at Newport on the Isle of Wight. On 5 December 1648 Parliament voted by 129 to 83 to continue negotiating with the king but Oliver Cromwell and the army opposed any further talks with someone they viewed as a bloody tyrant and were already taking action to consolidate their power
Hammond was replaced as Governor of the Isle of Wight on 27 November, and placed in the custody of the army the following day. In Pride’s Purge on 6 and 7 December, the members of Parliament out of sympathy with the military were arrested or excluded by Colonel Thomas Pride while others stayed away voluntarily. The remaining members formed the Rump Parliament. It was effectively a military coup.
Charles was moved to Hurst Castle at the end of 1648 and thereafter to Windsor Castle. In January 1649, the Rump House of Commons indicted him on a charge of treason, which was rejected by the House of Lords. The idea of trying a king was a novel one.
The Chief Justices of the three common law courts of England – Henry Rolle Oliver St John and John Wilde – all opposed the indictment as unlawful. The Rump Commons declared itself capable of legislating alone, passed a bill creating a separate court for Charles’s trial, and declared the bill an act without the need for royal assent.
The trial began on 20 January 1649 in Westminster Hall
After the proceedings were declared open Solicitor General John Cook 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”.
Cook ignored this and continued, so Charles poked him a second time and rose to speak despite this, Cook continued. At this point Charles incensed at being thus ignored, struck Cook across the shoulder so forcefully that the ornate silver tip of the cane broke off rolled down Cook’s gown and clattered onto the floor between them. With nobody willing to pick it up for him, Charles had to stoop down to retrieve it himself.
When given the opportunity to speak 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 due to the divine right of kings 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 of force of arms
Charles insisted that the trial was illegal…
The court proceeded as if the king had pleaded guilty (pro confesso), as was the standard legal practice in case of a refusal to plead. However, witnesses were heard by the judges for “the further and clearer satisfaction of their own judgement and consciences”. Thirty witnesses were summoned, but some were later excused. The evidence was heard in the Painted Chamber rather than Westminster Hall. King Charles was not present to hear the evidence against him and he had no opportunity to question witnesses.
The King was declared guilty at a public session on Saturday 27 January 1649 and sentenced to death. His sentence read…
To show their agreement with the sentence, all of the 67 Commissioners who were present rose to their feet. During the rest of that day and on the following day, signatures were collected for his death warrant. This was eventually signed by 59 of the Commissioners, including two who had not been present when the sentence was passed.
His beheading was scheduled for Tuesday 30 January 1649. Two of his children remained in England under the control of parliament Elizabeth and Henry. They were permitted to visit him on 29 January, and he bade them a tearful farewell.
The following morning, he called for two shirts to prevent the cold weather causing any noticeable shivers that the crowd could have mistaken for fear.
He walked under guard from St James’s Palace, where he had been confined to the Palace of Whitehall, where an execution scaffold was erected in front of the Banqueting House. Charles was separated from spectators by large ranks of soldiers, and his last speech reached only those with him on the scaffold.
He blamed his fate on his failure to prevent the execution of his loyal servant Strafford: “An unjust sentence that I suffered to take effect, is punished now by an unjust sentence on me.”
He declared that he had desired the liberty and freedom of the people as much as any “but I must tell you that their liberty and freedom consists in having government … It is not their having a share in the government that is nothing appertaining unto them. A subject and a sovereign are clean different things.”
He continued, “I shall go from a corruptible to an incorruptible Crown, where no disturbance can be.”
At about 2:00 p.m. Charles put his head on the block after saying a prayer and signalled the executioner when he was ready by stretching out his hands he was then beheaded with one clean stroke.
According to observer Philip Henry, a moan “as I never heard before and desire I may never hear again” rose from the assembled crowd, some of whom then dipped their handkerchiefs in the king’s blood as a memento. The executioner was masked and disguised, and there is debate over his identity. The commissioners approached Richard Brandon, the common hangman of London, but he refused, at least at first, despite being offered £200.
On the day after the execution, the king’s head was sewn back onto his body which was then embalmed and placed in a lead coffin.
The commission refused to allow his burial at Westminster Abbey so his body was conveyed to Windsor on the night of 7 February. He was buried in private in the Henry VIII vault alongside the coffins of Henry VIII and Henry’s third wife, Jane Seymour, in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle on 9 February 1649.
Ten days after Charles’s execution on the day of his interment, a memoir purporting to be written by the king appeared for sale. This book, the Eikon Basilike (Greek for the “Royal Portrait”), contained an apologia for royal policies, and it proved an effective piece of royalist propaganda.
John Milton wrote a Parliamentary rejoinder, the Eikonoklastes (“The Iconoclast”), but the response made little headway against the pathos of the royalist book. Anglicans and royalists fashioned an image of martyrdom and in the Convocations of Canterbury and York of 1660 King Charles the Martyr was added to the Church of England’s liturgical calendar.
High church Anglicans held special services on the anniversary of his death. Churches, such as those at Falmouth and Tunbridge Wells and Anglican devotional societies such as the Society of King Charles the Martyr, were founded in his honour.
Henrietta Maria increasingly focused on her faith and on her children, especially Henrietta (whom she called “Minette”) James and Henry. Henrietta Maria attempted to convert both Princes James and Henry to Catholicism, her attempts with Henry angering both Royalists in exile and Charles II. Henriette, however, was brought up a Catholic. Henrietta Maria had founded a convent at Chaillot in 1651, and she lived there for much of the 1650s.
With the monarchy overthrown, England became a republic or “Commonwealth”. The House of Lords was abolished by the Rump Commons, and executive power was assumed by a Council of State. All significant military opposition in Britain and Ireland was extinguished by the forces of Oliver Cromwell in the Third English Civil War and the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland
Cromwell forcibly disbanded the Rump Parliament in 1653 thereby establishing the Protectorate with himself as Lord Protector. Upon his death in 1658, he was briefly succeeded by his ineffective son, Richard. Parliament was reinstated and the monarchy was restored to Charles I’s eldest son Charles II, in 1660.
In the words of John Philipps Kenyon “Charles Stuart is a man of contradictions and controversy”. Revered by high Tories who considered him a saintly martyr, he was condemned by Whig historians, such as Samuel Rawson Gardiner, who thought him duplicitous and delusional.
In recent decades, most historians have criticised him, the main exception being Kevin Sharpe who offered a more sympathetic view of Charles that has not been widely adopted. While Sharpe argued that the king was a dynamic man of conscience Professor Barry Coward thought Charles “was the most incompetent monarch of England since Henry VI”, a view shared by Ronald Hutton, who called him “the worst king we have had since the Middle Ages”
Archbishop William Laud who was beheaded by Parliament during the war, described Charles as “A mild and gracious prince who knew not how to be, or how to be made, great.” Charles was more sober and refined than his father, but he was intransigent and deliberately pursued unpopular policies that ultimately brought ruin on himself.
Both Charles and James were advocates of the divine right of kings, but while James’s ambitions concerning absolute prerogative were tempered by compromise and consensus with his subjects Charles believed that he had no need tocompromise or even to explain his actions. He thought that he was answerable only to God. “Princes are not bound to give account of their actions,” he wrote, “but to God alone”
The Restoration was both a series of events in April–May 1660 and the period that followed it in British history. In 1660 the monarchy was restored to the kingdoms of England, Ireland and Scotland in the person of Charles II. The period that followed the Wars of the Three Kingdoms was officially declared an Interregnum.
Henrietta Maria returned to England following the Restoration in October 1660 along with her daughter Princess Henrietta. Henrietta Maria’s return was partially prompted by a liaison between Anne Hyde and Henrietta Maria’s son, James the Duke of York, Anne was pregnant and the Duke had proposed marrying her. Henrietta Maria did not want Anne as a daughter-in-law, but Charles II agreed and despite her efforts the wedding went ahead.
Charles II married Catherine of Braganza on the 21st May 1662 at Portsmouth in two ceremonies a secret Catholic one followed by a public Anglican service. Charles had at least 25 illegitimate children but no children with his wife.
Mary Princess Royal married William II Prince of Orange on 2 May 1641 at the Chapel Royal, Whitehall Palace, London. They had one child William III of England.
Elizabeth Stuartdied one year after her father on 8 September 1650 aged 15.
Henry Stuart, Duke of Gloucester died 13 September 1660 aged 20.
Henrietta of England married Philippe of France, Duke of Orléans at the Palais Royal on 30 March 1661. Philippe despite being openly hemsexual had eight children with his wife two lived to adulthood Marie Louise d’Orléans and Anne Marie d’Orléans. Henrietta died 30 June 1670, 14 days after her 26th birthday.
James II married Anne Hyde on 3 September 1660 they had eight children two livwd to adulthood Mary II and Queen Anne. He then married Mary of Modena on 6 February 1685 they had 12 children 1 who lived to adulthood James, Prince of Wales “the Old Pretender” he also had 12 illegitimate children. He became king in 1685 after the death of his brother Charles II.
In August 1669, Henrietta Maria saw the birth of her granddaughter Anne Marie d’Orléans. Shortly afterwards, she died at the château de Colombes near Paris, having taken an excessive quantity of opiates as a painkiller on the advice of Louis XIV’s doctor, Antoine Vallot. She was buried in the French royal necropolis at the Basilica of St Denis, with her heart being placed in a silver casket and buried in Chaillot.
Titles and styles
23 December 1600 – 27 March 1625:
Duke of Albany,Ormonde, Earl of Ross Lord Ardmannoch
6 January 1605 – 27 March 1625: Duke of York
6 November 1612 – 27 March 1625: Duke of Cornwall
4 November 1616 – 27 March 1625: Prince of Wales
27 March 1625 – 30 January 1649: His Majesty The King
The waistcoat allegedly worn by Charles I at his execution. ‘The arterial blood released after decapitation would have spurted forward with considerable force. ‘With a linen shirt underneath, which may have soaked up any blood near the neck, it is possible that no blood got onto the waistcoat during the beheading. The blood stains could have been incurred during handling after his death.’
Cultural depictions of Charles I
Film and television
.Russell Thorndike in Henrietta Maria (1923)
.Henry Victor in The Royal Oak (1923)
.Hugh Miller in The Vicar of Bray (1937)
.Robert Rietty in The Scarlet Blade (1963)
.Alec Guinness in Cromwell (1970)
.Jeremy Clyde in The Children of the New Forest (1977)
and By the Sword Divided (1983)
.Stephen Fry in Blackadder The Cavalier Years (1988)
.Bill Paterson in The Return of the Musketeers (1989)
.Aleksei Petrenko in film Mushketyory 20 let spustya (1992)
.Rupert Everett in To Kill a King (2003)
.Martin Turner briefly in Charles II: The Power & the Passion (2003)
.Peter Capaldi in The Devil’s Whore (2008)
.Mark Brent The Last Days Of Charles I (2015)
Cultural depictions of Charles I
.Twenty Years After, by Alexandre Dumas.
.White King Charles I – Traitor, Murderer,
.Martyr by Leanda de Lisle
.The Oak Apple, Volume 4 of The Morland
.Dynasty by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles.
.Charles I (Penguin Monarchs) by Mark Kishlansky
.55 Days is an English history play by
.Killers of the King The Men Who Dared to
Execute Charles I by Charles Spencer
.He makes a brief appearance in
Lawrence Norfolk’s John
.Charles I A Life of Religion, War and
Treason by Christopher Hibbert
.He’s a character in The King’s Spy
by Andrew Swanston, set mainly
.Charles I and the People of England
by David Cressy
.In Traitor’s Field by Robert Wilton
.Charles I and the Aristocracy by Richard Cust
.Elizabeth Goudge’s 1958 novel, The
White Witch, set during the Civil War.
.A Royal Passion: The Turbulent Marriage
of King Charles I of England and
Henrietta Maria of France
by Katie Whitaker
King of England, Scotland and Ireland
19 November 1600 – 30 January 1649
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