Who Was Charles I?
King Charles I was the monarch of England, Scotland, and Ireland from March 27, 1625, until his execution. He was born on November 19, 1600 in Dunfermline Palace, Dunfermline and was executed in 1649 in the city of Westminster. King James VI of Scotland was Charles’ father. Charles’ older brother, Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, died in 1612, and then Charles became heir apparent to the English, Irish and Scottish thrones.
While he was born in Scotland, after his father inherited the English throne in 1603 the family moved to England. Charles spent eight months in Spain in 1623 while some attempted to arrange a marriage between him and the Spanish Habsburg princess Maria Anna. He later married Henrietta Maria of France, the Bourbon princess, instead.
A Troubled Start
After taking the throne, Charles disagreed with England’s Parliament. Charles thought it his divine right to govern as he saw fit, and many of his subjects opposed his ideas, so the Parliament fought to control his methods. He was thought of as a tyrant by his people, mostly because of the tax structure that he tried to put into place. Henrietta Maria of France was also a Roman Catholic and the sister of the King of France. This lead many in the kingdom to not trust him and thought him overly loyal to the Pope and France because of his Catholicism.
In Europe, the Thirty Years War was taking place, right around the time the English Civil War broke out. This war occurred because the people of Bohemia (Czech Republic) wanted Fredrick, the Protestant brother in law of Charles as King, instead of the Catholic Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand 2nd as their ruler. While this war took place mostly in Germany, it involved almost all of Europe and resulted in an overall reduced population of most European countries. It was also very costly financially and caused the bankruptcy of many countries.
Charles did not help his brother in law Fredrick, as Fredrick was a Protestant. Later Charles tried to force the Church of Scotland to adopt the Anglican practices. This later led to the Bishops’ Wars, which ultimately led to his downfall.
The Tyrant King Or The Martyr King?
For eleven years, from 1629 to 1633 King Charles I rules in a total dictatorship, and refuses to call Parliament for this entire time. William Laud, a High Churchman, was appointed as Archbishop of Canterbury, and Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Stafford, is appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland, continue to work with Charles to illegally raise taxes. Eventually, Charles runs out of money and is forced to call Parliament in 1640. At this time Parliament refuses to talk about raising taxes unless he controls Laud and Wentworth who are running Ireland and Scotland, and who the Parliament think are gangsters.
Charles tries to force the Church of Scotland to use the English Book of Common Prayer, which is not at all in line with their religion. Because of Charles’ attempts to control the Church of Scotland, many in the kingdom turned against him, and this made the parliaments of both England and Scotland stronger.
King Charles I And The English Civil War
In 1642 the English Civil War broke out, and Charles fought against the armies of these two parliaments. The first battle of the English Civil War took place at Edgehill, Warwickshire in 1643. The last battle, which was the 14th took place at Naseby, Northamptonshire in 1645. This last battle of Naseby was handily won by Oliver Cromwell, who was well educated in the tactics of war. After this defeat, Charles retreated to Oxford.
Why Was King Charles I Executed?
Charles finally surrendered to the Scottish in 1645. The Scottish army later handed him over to the English Parliament forces. The English Parliament demanded that a constitutional monarchy was put into place, but Charles refused to agree to these requests. Charles escaped for a short period in November 1647 but was recaptured and put into prison on the Isle of Wight. Charles then attempted to build a partnership with Scotland, but by then in 1648 Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army had control over England. In January 1649, Charles was convicted and executed for high treason.
Charles was accused of treason against England because it was said that he was using his power as King to follow personal interests, instead of interests for the good of the country.
The treason charge said that, “for accomplishment of such his designs, and for the protecting of himself and his adherents in his and their wicked practices, to the same ends hath traitorously and maliciously levied war against the present Parliament, and the people therein represented”, and that the “wicked designs, wars, and evil practices of him, the said Charles Stuart, have been, and are carried on for the advancement and upholding of a personal interest of will, power, and pretended prerogative to himself and his family, against the public interest, common right, liberty, justice, and peace of the people of this nation.”
After Charles was executed, his wife, who was French, fled to Paris with their children, including Prince Charles who was next in line for the throne. Parliament then decided that the monarchy was ended, and the Commonwealth of England was born. This was a republic, and different from the absolute monarchy that Charles I had tried to wield. In 1660 the monarchy was then reinstated and turned over to his son, Charles II. The monarchy, while the same in name, now had a more limited power, that was shared with Parliament.
A Short Chronology of King Charles I:
- 1600: Charles born in Scotland.
- 1612: Charles older brother Frederick is killed. Charles is now next in line for the throne.
- 1613: His sister Elizabeth marries German Prince Fredrick.
- 1619: 30 Years War begins in Europe.
- 1624: England enters 30 Years War and goes to war with Catholic Spain.
- 1625: King James dies. Charles then marries the Catholic Henrietta Maria which creates tension.
- 1625: Charles calls Parliament to raise taxes to afford the continuation of war on Spain. Parliament refuses. The war effort fails.
- 1626: Charles is crowned King.
- 1633: King Charles I appoints Laud and Wentworth to control Scotland and Ireland.
- 1637: King Charles I begins war with Scotland.
- 1639: First Bishops War begins.
- 1640: King Charles I finally calls Parliament to raise taxes, but it’s a failure.
- 1642: English Civil War begins. It continues until 1649.
- 1649: King Charles I is convicted and executed for high treason.
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Link will appear as Hanson, Marilee. "King Charles I" https://englishhistory.net/stuarts/king-charles-i/, February 11, 2017