- Charles I was the King of England, Scotland, and Ireland until his execution.
- Charles fought the English and Scottish parliaments’ armies during the English Civil War.
- After his defeat, he was captured by a Scottish army and eventually delivered to the English Parliament.
- For high treason, Prince Charles was indicted, tried, and executed.
- The monarchy of Charles I was overthrown, and the Commonwealth of England got established as a republic.
- The monarchical system was restored to Charles I’s son, Charles II.
Table of Contents
Heir to the Throne
Charles I was born in Fife, the second son of James VI of Scotland and Anne of Denmark.
He was born into the House of Stuart as the second child of King James VI of Scotland.
Charles believed that kings had the right to rule because it was given to them by God. He was very quiet and often thought he was better than other people.
Charles also had a residual stammer. He was a good linguist and a sensitive man with refined tastes.
After his father became king of England in 1603, he moved to England and spent the rest of his life.
On the death of his brother, Prince Henry, he became heir to the throne.
In 1625, he was crowned King of Great Britain as the second Stuart monarch.
A Love for the Arts and Religion
Charles I spent a lot of money on the arts. He invited artists like Van Dyck and Rubens to work in England.
Charles bought a great collection of paintings by Raphael and Titian. This collection was later divided up and given to different people by Oliver Cromwell.
Charles I also instituted the post of Master of the King’s Music. This involved supervising the King’s large band of musicians, and the post still exists today.
Charles I’s court and art collection were very luxurious. This made the king’s financial problems worse, and he had a lot of expenses and not enough money to pay for them.
Charles did not let anyone sit next to him except his wife, which made his enemies very mad, especially the Parliamentarians.
Charles’ lack of empathy and insistence on sticking to his views led to his decreasing popularity. He was out of step with the changing times, determined to maintain absolute power.
Charles was also a devout Christian, and he liked the elaborate High Anglican style of worship, which involved much ceremony.
Many of his subjects, particularly in Scotland, preferred more fundamental ways.
Many prominent people found themselves ever more opposed to him on religious and financial matters.
After breaking his word to the Spanish infanta, he married a Roman Catholic, Henrietta Maria of France, which only made things worse.
Charles I’s Government
Charles’ reign got filled with controversy and conflict.
This ultimately led to civil wars, first with the Scots in Ireland and then across England.
Although the causes of the war got hotly disputed at the time, it’s evident that Charles was a failure as a commander.
War with France and Spain
Charles inherited a problem with Parliament from his father. But his actions made the situation worse.
He fought two wars with France and Spain simultaneously, which did not go well.
Two attempts to invade France failed. One was led by The Duke of Buckingham, a royal favorite of Charles I who had influence and power.
Most people disliked Buckingham. So much so that they impeached him in Parliament.
Unfortunately, he got murdered before leading the second expedition to France.
The political controversy over Buckingham showed that the monarch’s right to choose his Ministers got accepted as an essential part of the royal prerogative.
However, Ministers also had to be acceptable to Parliament or repeated confrontations.
Charles I and Parliament
The King and Parliament had disagreements about money because of the costs of war and religious differences in the country.
Charles’s marriage was dangerous because people were still afraid of plots. People also thought that the Protestant cause was going badly in the war in Europe.
Charles had to choose between getting money from Parliament to fund his policies or conducting a war without help from Parliament.
Charles decided not to have a Parliament and not get taxes from it.
Despite later opponents calling this period ‘the Eleven Years’ Tyranny’, Charles’s decision to rule without Parliament was within the King’s right to do so.
Many people thought that the absence of a Parliament was less of a problem than how the government was trying to get money without Parliament.
Charles’s advisers were efficient, but some people did not like them.
The King got most of his money from taking things from people, like when they didn’t follow the forest laws or from forced loans, and he received money when he got when he took care of someone’s land. But the most important way he got money was by charging people for using their boats.
These measures made him very unpopular, and he lost the support of many people who were natural supporters of the Crown.
Charles had left Scotland when he was three years old, but he returned for his coronation as the king of Scotland. This event led to rebellion.
Charles’s attempt to impose a High Church liturgy and prayer book in Scotland caused a riot, leading to general unrest throughout the country.
Charles had to call Parliament back. However, the Short Parliament questioned Charles’s request for money for the war against the Scots, and it got dissolved within weeks.
The Scots occupied Newcastle, staying there until their complaints got fixed, getting paid a subsidy until that happened.
Another meeting of Parliament was finally convened.
The Long Parliament event began with the abolition of the King’s Council. This event also made it illegal to collect money from fines like ship money.
The King agreed that Parliament could not get dissolved without the Parliament’s consent.
The Triennial Act meant that Parliaments could not be more than three years apart.
Later, the tensions between the King and Parliament over the command of the Army increased because of the Irish uprising.
The Commons was soon filled with the bodies of the slain and battered ranks as King Charles entered to arrest five Members of Parliament who had fled before his arrival.
The Parliament responded by passing a Militia Bill, which permitted troops to be raised only by officers who Parliament had designated.
Finally, King Charles raised the Royal Standard to summon his loyal subjects to help him.
During the conflict, Oxford was designated as the King’s capital. This Civil War was called a “war without an opponent.”
The Battle of Edgehill showed that early on, the fighting was even.
Even though the Navy sided with Parliament, it was hard to get help from other countries to support the Royalists. Charles didn’t have a lot of money so he couldn’t pay for many mercenaries.
Parliament had joined an alliance with the leading Scottish Presbyterian group.
Parliament’s armies had better training and discipline than the armies of King Charles, and this helped them win most of the battles.
Parliament won victories under strong generals like Sir Thomas Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell.
The Scottish Army handed Charles over to the English Parliament to get paid what they got owed.
Then the English Parliament gave Charles back to the Scots.
Charles I’s Trial and Execution
After Parliament defeated him in the Civil Wars, Charles I was imprisoned, and the High Court had him on trial for treason.
Putting a king on trial was highly controversial. Those who opposed the trial got prevented from attending or arrested when it came to time.
The King did not cooperate with the court. He did not say if he was guilty or not, and he didn’t think the court was legitimate.
After a week, the judges found him guilty and sentenced him to execution.
These are the words by which they did it:
“This Court doth adjudge that he the said Charles Stuart, as a Tyrant, Traitor, Murderer, and Public Enemy to the good people of this Nation, [and] shall be put to death, by the severing of his head from his body.”
Charles was kept under house arrest at St James’ Palace for three days.
Politicians passed legislation to prevent his son Charles from succeeding him.
Charles said goodbye to his two youngest children, Elizabeth and Henry. The Queen, Henrietta Maria, and his two eldest sons were in hiding.
He received Holy Communion from the Bishop of London.
On a chilly January morning in 1649, the King was led by troops to the Palace of Whitehall at 10 a.m., to the sound of military drums.
Charles asked for two shirts to wear. He said:
“The season is so sharp as probably may make me shake, which some observers may imagine proceeds from fear. I would have no such imputation.”
Charles got led out of an upper window to a scaffold. The scaffold was draped in black. Two executioners who got heavily disguised met Charles. They had a coffin covered in black velvet and a low wooden block.
Charles put a cap on his head, tucking his long hair beneath it. He prayed and then addressed the crowd. He said:
“I go from a corruptible to an incorruptible crown, where no disturbance can be, no disturbance in the world.”
He removed his cloak, gloves, and garter badge, and gave them to the Bishop. He stretched out his arms to signal to the executioner that he was prepared.
Officials quickly dispersed the spectators, some of whom had watched in approval and some in dismay.
A week later, the monarchy got abolished.