Clement-Jones family 12/22 - Person Sheet
Clement-Jones family 12/22 - Person Sheet
MotherAnne of DENMARK , 13049 (1574-1619)
FatherKING OF FRANCE Henri IV DE BOURBON , 13496 (1553-1610)
MotherMaria de MEDICI , 13497 (1575-1642)
ChildrenJames II , 11326 (1633-1701)
 Charles , 16353 (1630-1685)
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.[a] Charles engaged in a struggle for power with the Parliament of England, attempting to obtain royal revenue whilst Parliament sought to curb his royal prerogative, which Charles believed was divinely ordained. Many of his subjects opposed his attempts to overrule and negate parliamentary authority, in particular his interference in the English and Scottish churches and the levying of taxes without parliamentary consent, because they saw them as those of a tyrannical absolute monarch.[1]

Charles's reign was also characterised by religious conflicts. His failure to successfully aid Protestant forces during the Thirty Years' War, coupled with his marriage to a Roman Catholic, Henrietta Maria of France, generated deep mistrust among Calvinists. Charles further allied himself with controversial ecclesiastics, such as Richard Montagu and William Laud, whom Charles appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. Many of Charles's subjects felt this brought the Church of England too close to Roman Catholicism. His religious policies generated the antipathy of reformed groups such as the Puritans. His attempts to force religious reforms upon Scotland led to the Bishops' Wars, strengthened the position of the English and Scottish parliaments and helped precipitate his own downfall.

Charles's last years were marked by the Civil War, in which he fought the forces of the English and Scottish parliaments. He was defeated in the First Civil War (1642–45), after which Parliament expected him to accept its demands for a constitutional monarchy. He instead remained defiant by attempting to forge an alliance with Scotland and escaping to the Isle of Wight. This provoked the Second Civil War (1648–49) and a second defeat for Charles, who was subsequently captured, tried, convicted, and executed for high treason. The monarchy was abolished and a republic called the Commonwealth of England, also referred to as the Cromwellian Interregnum, was declared. In 1660, the monarchy was restored to his son, Charles II.

Early life

Second son

Engraving by Simon de Passe of Charles and his parents, King James and Queen Anne, c. 1612
The second son of King James VI of Scotland and Anne of Denmark, Charles was born in Dunfermline Palace, Fife, on 19 November 1600.[2] He was baptised in the Chapel Royal at Holyrood Palace on 23 December 1600 by David Lindsay, Bishop of Ross, and at the same ceremony was created Duke of Albany, the 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.[3]

James VI was the distant cousin of 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 that year, he was not considered strong enough to make the journey to London due to his fragile health.[4] He remained in Scotland with his father's friend Alexander Seton, Lord Fyvie, appointed as his guardian.[5]

By 1604, Charles was three and a half and as he was able to walk the length of the great hall at Dunfermline Palace without assistance, it was decided that he was now strong enough to make the journey to England to be reunited with his family. In mid-July 1604, Charles left Dunfermline for England where he was to spend most of the rest of his life.[6] In England, Charles was placed under the charge of Elizabeth, Lady Carey, the wife of courtier Sir Robert Carey, who put him in boots made of Spanish leather and brass to help strengthen his weak ankles.[7] His speech development was also slow, and he retained a stammer, or hesitant speech, for the rest of his life.[8]

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.[9] Thomas Murray, a Presbyterian Scot, was appointed as a tutor.[10] Charles learnt the usual subjects of classics, languages, mathematics and religion.[11] In 1611, he was made a Knight of the Garter.[12]

Heir apparent

Eventually, Charles apparently conquered his physical infirmity,[12] which might have been caused by rickets,[7] and grew to a peak height of 5 feet 4 inches (163 cm).[8] He became an adept horseman and marksman, and took up fencing.[11] Even so, he was not as valued as his physically stronger and taller elder brother, Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, whom Charles adored and attempted to emulate.[13] However, in early November 1612, two weeks before Charles's 12th birthday, Henry died at the age of 18 of what is suspected to have been typhoid (or possibly porphyria),[14] and Charles became heir apparent. As the eldest living son of the sovereign, Charles automatically gained several titles (including Duke of Cornwall and Duke of Rothesay). Four years later, in November 1616, he was created Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester.[15]
In 1613, his sister Elizabeth married Frederick V, Elector Palatine, and moved to Heidelberg. In 1617, Ferdinand II, a Catholic Austrian Habsburg, was elected king of Bohemia. The following year, the people of Bohemia rebelled, and instead chose as their monarch Frederick V, who was leader of the Protestant Union. Frederick's acceptance of the crown in September 1619 marked the beginning of the turmoil that would develop into the Thirty Years' War, which the English Parliament and public quickly grew to see as a polarised continental struggle between Catholics and Protestants. James, who had been seeking marriage between the new Prince of Wales and the Spanish Habsburg Infanta, Maria Anna of Spain, began to see the Spanish Match as a possible diplomatic means of achieving peace in Europe.[16]

Unfortunately for James, negotiation with Spain proved generally unpopular, both with the public and with James's court.[17] Arminian divines were one of the few sources of support for the proposed union.[18] Parliament was actively hostile towards Spain and Catholicism, and thus, when called by James in 1621, the members hoped for an enforcement of recusancy laws, a naval campaign against Spain, and a Protestant marriage for the Prince of Wales.[19] Parliament's attacks upon the monopolists for their abuse of prices led to the scapegoating of James's Lord Chancellor, Francis Bacon,[20] and then to Bacon's impeachment before the House of Lords. The impeachment was the first since 1459 without the king's official sanction in the form of a bill of attainder. The incident set an important precedent as the process of impeachment would later be used against Charles and his supporters: the Duke of Buckingham, Archbishop Laud, and the Earl of Strafford. James insisted that the Commons be concerned exclusively with domestic affairs, while the members of the Commons protested that they had the privilege of free speech within the Commons' walls, demanding war with Spain and a Protestant Princess of Wales.[21] Charles, like his father, considered the discussion of his marriage in the Commons impertinent and an infringement of his father's royal prerogative.[22] In January 1622, James dissolved Parliament, angry at what he perceived as the members' impudence and intransigence.[23]

Quarrel with Spain

Charles and the Duke of Buckingham, James's favourite and a man who had great influence over the prince,[24] travelled incognito to Spain in February 1623 to try to reach agreement on the long-pending Spanish Match.[25] In the end, however, the trip was an embarrassing failure.[26] The Infanta thought Charles was little more than an infidel, and the Spanish at first demanded that Charles convert to Roman Catholicism as a condition of the match.[27] The Spanish insisted on toleration of Catholics in England and the repeal of the penal laws, which Charles knew would never be agreed by Parliament, and that the Infanta remain in Spain for a year after any wedding to ensure that England complied with all the terms of the treaty.[28] A personal quarrel erupted between Buckingham and the Count of Olivares, the Spanish chief minister, and so Charles conducted the ultimately futile negotiations personally.[29] When Charles returned to London in October, without a bride and to a rapturous and relieved public welcome,[30] he and Buckingham pushed a reluctant King James to declare war on Spain.[31]

With the encouragement of his Protestant advisers, James summoned Parliament in 1624 so that he could request subsidies for a war. Charles and Buckingham supported the impeachment of the Lord Treasurer, Lionel Cranfield, 1st Earl of Middlesex, who opposed war on grounds of cost and who quickly fell in much the same manner as Bacon had.[32] 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.[33]

James also requested that Parliament sanction the marriage between the Prince of Wales and a sister of Louis XIII of France, Henrietta Maria, whom Charles had seen in Paris while en route to Spain.[34] Parliament reluctantly agreed to the marriage,[35] with the promise from both James and Charles that the marriage would not entail liberty of religion being accorded to any Roman Catholic outside the Princess's own household.[35] By 1624, James was growing ill, and as a result was finding it extremely difficult to control Parliament. By the time of his death, March 1625, Charles and the Duke of Buckingham had already assumed de facto control of the kingdom.[36]

Early reign[edit source | editbeta]

On 1 May 1625 Charles was married by proxy to fifteen-year-old Henrietta Maria in front of the doors of the Notre Dame de Paris, before his first Parliament could meet to forbid the banns.[37] Many members were opposed to the king's marrying a Roman Catholic, fearing that Charles would lift restrictions on Roman Catholics and undermine the official establishment of the reformed Church of England. Although he told Parliament that he would not relax restrictions relating to recusants, he promised to do exactly that in a secret marriage treaty with Louis XIII of France.[38] Moreover, the price of marriage with the French princess had been to place under French command an English naval force that would be used to suppress the Protestant Huguenots at La Rochelle, thereby reversing England's long held position in the French Wars of Religion. The couple married in person on 13 June 1625 in Canterbury. 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.[39] Charles and Henrietta Maria had nine children, with three sons and three daughters surviving infancy.[40]

Distrust of Charles's religious policies increased with his support of a controversial anti-Calvinist ecclesiastic, Richard Montagu, who was in disrepute amongst the Puritans.[41] 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. Anti-Calvinists—known as Arminians—believed that human beings could influence their own fate through the exercise of free will.[42] With the support of King James, Montagu produced another pamphlet, entitled Appello Caesarem, in 1625 shortly after the old king's death and Charles's accession. To protect Montagu from the stricture of Puritan members of Parliament, Charles made the cleric one of his royal chaplains, increasing many Puritans' suspicions that Charles favoured Arminianism as a clandestine attempt to aid the resurgence of Catholicism.[43]

Charles's primary concern during his early reign was foreign policy. The Thirty Years' War, originally confined to Bohemia, was spiralling into a wider European war. In 1620 Frederick V was defeated at the Battle of White Mountain[44] and by 1622, despite the aid of English volunteers, had lost his hereditary lands in the Electorate of the Palatinate to the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II.[45] Having agreed to help his brother-in-law regain the Palatinate, Charles declared war on Spain, which under the Catholic King Philip IV had sent forces to help occupy the Palatinate.[46]
Parliament preferred an inexpensive naval attack on Spanish colonies in the New World, hoping that the capture of the Spanish treasure fleets could finance the war. Charles, however, preferred more aggressive (and more expensive) action on the Continent.[47] Parliament voted to grant a subsidy of only £140,000, an insufficient sum for Charles's war plans.[48] Moreover, the House of Commons limited its authorisation for royal collection of tonnage and poundage (two varieties of customs duties) to a period of one year, although previous sovereigns since Henry VI of England had been granted the right for life.[49] In this manner, Parliament could keep a check on expenditures by forcing Charles to seek the renewal of the grant each year. Charles's allies in the House of Lords, led by the Duke of Buckingham, refused to pass the bill. Although no Parliamentary Act for the levy of tonnage and poundage was obtained, Charles continued to collect the duties.[50]

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.[51] In May 1626, Charles nominated Buckingham as Chancellor of Cambridge University in a show of support,[52] and had two members who had spoken against Buckingham—Dudley Digges and Sir John Eliot—arrested at the door of the House. The Commons were outraged by the imprisonment of two of their members, and after about a week in custody, both were released.[53] On 12 June 1626 the House of Commons launched a direct protestation, stating, "We protest before your Majesty and the whole world that until this great person be removed from intermeddling with the great affairs of state, we are out of hope of any good success; and we do fear that any money we shall or can give will, through his misemployment, be turned rather to the hurt and prejudice of your kingdom." Despite Parliament's protests, however, Charles refused to dismiss his friend, dismissing Parliament instead.[54]

Despite Charles's agreement to provide the French with English ships as a condition of marrying Henrietta Maria, he reneged upon his earlier promise and in 1627 instead launched an attack on the French coast led by Buckingham to defend the Huguenots at La Rochelle,[55] thereby driving a wedge between the English and French Crowns that was not surmounted for the duration of the Thirty Years' War.[38] 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.[56]

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.[57] Summoned again in March 1628, Parliament adopted a Petition of Right on 26 May, calling upon the king to acknowledge that he could not levy taxes without Parliament's consent, impose martial law on civilians, imprison them without due process, or quarter troops in their homes.[58] Charles assented to the petition on 7 June,[59] but by the end of the month he had prorogued Parliament and re-asserted his right to collect customs duties without authorisation from Parliament.[60]

On 23 August 1628, Buckingham was assassinated.[61] Charles was deeply distressed, throwing "himself upon his bed, lamenting with much passion and with abundance of tears".[62] He remained grieving in his room for two days.[63] 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.[64] Although the death of Buckingham effectively ended the war with Spain and eliminated his leadership as an issue, it did not end the conflicts between Charles and Parliament over taxation and religious matters.[65]

Personal rule

Charles depicted as a victorious and chivalrous Saint George in an English landscape by Rubens, 1629–30.[b]
Parliament prorogued

In January 1629 Charles opened the second session of the Parliament, which had been prorogued in June 1628, with a moderate speech on the tonnage and poundage issue.[69] Members of the House of Commons began to voice their opposition in light of the case of John Rolle, a Member of Parliament whose goods had been confiscated for failing to pay tonnage and poundage.[70] 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,[71] members held the Speaker, Sir John Finch, down in his chair so that the dissolving of Parliament could be delayed long enough for resolutions against Catholicism, Arminianism and poundage and tonnage to be read out and acclaimed by the chamber.[72] The provocation was too much for Charles, who dissolved Parliament and had nine parliamentary leaders, including John Eliot, imprisoned over the matter,[73] thereby turning these men into martyrs, and giving popular cause to their protest.

Shortly after the proroguing of Parliament, without the means in the foreseeable future to raise funds for a European war from Parliament, or the influence of Buckingham, Charles made peace with France and Spain.[74] The following eleven years, during which Charles ruled without a Parliament, are referred to as the personal rule or the "eleven years' tyranny".[75] (Ruling without Parliament, though an exceptional exercise of the royal prerogative, was supported by precedent.)

Economic problems

Notwithstanding the failure of Buckingham in the short lived campaigns against both Spain and France, there was in reality little economic capacity for Charles to wage wars overseas. Throughout his reign Charles was obliged to rely primarily on volunteer forces and diplomatic efforts to support his sister, Elizabeth, and secure his foreign policy objective for the restoration of the Palatinate.[77] England was still the least taxed country in Europe, with no official excise and no regular direct taxation.[78] Without the consent of Parliament, Charles's capacity to acquire funds for his treasury was theoretically hamstrung, legally at least. 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 anyone 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.[79]

The chief tax imposed by Charles was one known as ship money,[80] which proved even more unpopular, and lucrative, than poundage and tonnage before it. Under statutes of Edward I and Edward III, collection of ship money had been authorised only during wars, and only on coastal regions. Charles, however, argued that there was no legal bar to collecting the tax during peacetime and throughout the whole of the kingdom. Ship money provided between £150,000 to £200,000 annually between 1634–1638, after which yields declined steeply.[81] This was paid directly to the Treasury of the Navy, thus making the Earl of Northumberland (Lord High Admiral) the most direct beneficiary of the tax.[82] 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.[83] The prosecution of John Hampden for non-payment in 1637–38 provided a platform for popular protest, and the judges only found against Hampden by the narrow margin of 7–5.[84]

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 in royal revenue.[85] Charles also raised funds from the Scottish nobility, at the price of considerable acrimony, by the Act of Revocation (1625), whereby all gifts of royal or church land made to the nobility since 1540 were revoked, with continued ownership being subject to an annual rent.[86] In addition, the boundaries of the royal forests in England were extended to their ancient limits as part of a scheme to maximize income by exploiting the land and fining land users within the enlarged boundaries for encroachment.[87]

Religious conflicts

Charles I with M. de St Antoine by Anthony van Dyck, 1633
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 contained an emphasis on clerical authority and the individual's capacity to reject salvation, and was consequently viewed as heretical and a potential vehicle for the reintroduction of Roman Catholicism by its opponents. Charles's sympathy to the teachings of Arminianism, and specifically his wish to move the Church of England away from Calvinism in a more traditional and sacramental direction, consistently affirmed Puritans' suspicions concerning the perceived irreligious tendencies of the crown.[88] A long history of opposition to tyrants who oppressed Protestants had developed since the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, most notably during the French Wars of Religion (articulated in the Vindiciae contra tyrannos),[89][90] and more recently in the Second Defenestration of Prague and eruption of the Thirty Years' War.[91] Such cultural identifications resonated with Charles's subjects who followed news of the war closely and grew increasingly dismayed by Charles failure to support the Protestant cause abroad effectively and his dalliances with Spain.[92] These allegations would haunt Charles because of the continued exacerbating actions of both king and council, particularly in the form of Archbishop William Laud.

William Laud was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury in 1633,[93] and began a series of unpopular reforms such as attempting to ensure religious uniformity by dismissing non-conformist clergymen, and closing Puritan organisations.[94] His policy was opposed to Calvinist theology, and he insisted that the Church of England's liturgy be celebrated using the form prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer, and that the internal architecture of English churches be reorganised so as to emphasise the sacrament of the altar, thereby attacking predestination.[95] To punish those who refused to accept his reforms, Laud used the two most feared and most arbitrary courts in the land, the Court of High Commission and the Court of Star Chamber.[94] The former could compel individuals to provide self-incriminating testimony, whilst the latter, essentially an extension of the Privy Council, could inflict any punishment whatsoever (including torture), with the sole exception of death.

The first years of the personal rule were marked by peace in England, partly because of tighter central control. Several individuals opposed Charles's taxes and Laud's policies, and some left as a result, such as the Puritan minister Thomas Hooker, who set sail for America along with other religious dissidents in the Griffin (1634). By 1633 Star Chamber had, in effect, taken the place of High Commission as the supreme tribunal for religious offences as well as dealing with Crown cases of a secular nature.[96] Under Charles's reign, defendants were regularly brought before the Court without indictment, due process of the law, or right to confront witnesses, and their testimonies were routinely extracted by the Court through torture.

Triple portrait of Charles I from three angles by Anthony van Dyck, 1635–36
However, when Charles attempted to impose his religious policies in Scotland he faced numerous difficulties. Although born in Scotland, Charles had become estranged from his northern kingdom; his first visit since early childhood was for his Scottish coronation in 1633.[97] 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.[98] In 1637, the king ordered the use of a new prayer book in Scotland that was almost identical to the English Book of Common Prayer, without consulting either the Scottish Parliament or the Kirk.[99] Although written, under Charles's direction, by Scottish bishops, it was resisted by many Scots, who saw the new prayer book as a vehicle for introducing Anglicanism to Scotland.[100] In 1637, unrest erupted throughout the Kirk upon the first Sunday of the prayer book's usage, and the public began to mobilise around a re-affirmation of the National Covenant.[101] When the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland met in November 1638, it condemned the new prayer book, abolished Episcopalian Church government by bishops, and adopted Presbyterian government by elders and deacons.[102]

Bishops' Wars

Main article: Bishops' Wars

Charles perceived the unrest in Scotland as a rebellion against his authority, precipitating the First Bishops' War in 1639. Charles did not seek subsidies to wage war, but instead raised an army without Parliamentary aid and marched into Scotland.[82] However, 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.[103] In the Treaty of Berwick, Charles regained custody of his Scottish fortresses and secured the dissolution of the Covenanters' interim government, albeit at the decisive concession that both the Scottish Parliament and General Assembly of the Scottish Church were called.[104]

Charles's military failure in the First Bishops' War in turn caused a financial and military crisis for Charles while his efforts to raise finance from Spain and support for his Palatine relatives led to the public humiliation of the Battle of the Downs where the Dutch destroyed a Spanish bullion fleet in sight of the Kent coast and English fleet.[105]

Charles's peace negotiations with the Scots were merely a bid by the king to gain time before launching a new military campaign. However, because of his financial weakness, he was forced to call Parliament into session in an attempt to raise funds for such a venture.[106] Charles summoned both English and Irish parliaments in the early months of 1640.[107] In March 1640, the Irish Parliament duly voted in a subsidy of £180,000 with the promise to raise an army 9,000 strong by the end of May.[107] However, in the English general election in March, court candidates fared badly,[108] and Charles's dealings with the English Parliament in April quickly reached stalemate. The earls of Northumberland and Strafford together attempted to reach a compromise whereby the king would agree to forfeit ship money in exchange for £650,000 (although the coming war was estimated at around £1 million).[109] Nevertheless, this alone was insufficient to produce consensus in the Commons.[110] 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.[111]

By this stage Strafford, Lord Deputy of Ireland since 1632,[112] had emerged as Charles's right hand man and together with Laud, pursued a policy of "Thorough" that aimed to make central royal authority more efficient and effective at the expense of local or anti-government interests.[113] Although originally a critic of the king, Strafford defected to royal service in 1628 (due in part to Buckingham's persuasion),[114] and had since emerged as the most capable of Charles's ministers. Having trained up a large army in Ireland in support of the king and weakened the authority of the Irish Parliament, particularly those members of parliament belonging to the Old English,[115] Strafford had been instrumental in obtaining an independent source of both royal revenue and forces within the three kingdoms.[82] Bolstered by the failure of the English Short Parliament, the Scottish Parliament declared itself capable of governing without the king's consent and, in August 1640, the Covenanter army moved into the county of Northumberland under the leadership of Lord Montrose.[116] Following the earl of Northumberland's illness, Strafford went north to command the English forces, despite being ill himself with a combination of gout and dysentery.[117] The Scottish soldiery, many of whom were veterans of the Thirty Years' War,[118] had far greater morale and training compared to their English counterparts, and met virtually no resistance until reaching Newcastle upon Tyne where, at the Battle of Newburn, they defeated the English forces and occupied the city, as well as the neighbouring county of Durham.[119]
On 24 September Charles took the unusual step of summoning the magnum concilium, the ancient council of all the Peers of the Realm, who were considered the king's hereditary counsellors, who recommended making peace with the Scots and recalling Parliament.[120] A cessation of arms, although not a final settlement, was agreed in the humiliating Treaty of Ripon, signed in October 1640.[121] The treaty 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).[120]
Consequently, in November Charles summoned what later became known as the Long Parliament. Once again, Charles's supporters fared badly at the polls. Of the 493 members of the Commons, over 350 were opposed to the king.[122]
Long Parliament[edit source | editbeta]

Main article: Long Parliament

See also: Wars of the Three Kingdoms

Tensions escalate[edit source | editbeta]

The Long Parliament assembled on 3 November 1640 and proved just as difficult for Charles as had the Short Parliament. The Parliament quickly began proceedings to impeach the king's leading counsellors of high treason.[123] Strafford was taken into custody on 10 November; Laud was impeached on 18 December; Lord Keeper Finch was impeached the following day, and he consequently fled to the Hague with Charles's permission on 21 December.[124] To prevent the king from dissolving it at will, Parliament passed the Triennial Act, to which the Royal Assent was granted in February 1641.[125] The Act required Parliament to be summoned at least once every three years, and that when the king failed to issue proper summons, the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal and 12 peers could do so instead.[126]

On 22 March 1641, Strafford, who had become the immediate target of the Parliamentarians, particularly that of John Pym, went on trial for high treason.[127] The incident provided a new departure for Irish politics whereby the three main political interest groups—Old English, Gaelic Irish and New English—joined together in a legal body to present evidence against Strafford.[128] However, the allegation by Sir Henry Vane that Strafford had threatened to use the Irish army to subdue England was not corroborated and on 10 April Pym's case collapsed.[129] Pym immediately launched a Bill of Attainder, which simply declared Strafford guilty and pronounced the sentence of death.[130]
Charles, however assured Strafford that he would not sign the attainder, without which the bill could not be passed.[131] Furthermore, the Lords were opposed to the severity of the proposed death sentence. However, increased tensions and an attempted coup by royalist army officers in support of Strafford (in which Charles was involved) began to sway the issue.[132] The Commons passed the Bill on 20 April by a large margin (204 in favour, 59 opposed, and 230 abstained), the Lords acquiesced (by 26 votes to 19, with 79 absent) in May,[133] and Charles, fearing for the safety of his family in the face of unrest, signed on 9 May.[134] Strafford was beheaded three days later.[135]
In May 1641, Charles assented to an unprecedented act, which forbade the dissolution of the English Parliament without Parliament's consent.[136] Ship money, fines in destraint of knighthood and excise without parliamentary consent were declared unlawful, and the Courts of Star Chamber and High Commission were abolished.[137] All remaining forms of taxation were legalised and regulated by the Tonnage and Poundage Act.[138] On 3 May, Parliament decreed The Protestation, attacking the 'wicked counsels' of Charles's government, whereby those who signed the petition undertook to defend 'the true reformed religion', parliament, and the king's person, honour and estate. Throughout May, the House of Commons launched several bills attacking bishops and episcopalianism in general, each time defeated in the Lords.[139]

Although he made several important concessions, Charles improved his own military position by securing the favour of the Scots during a visit to Scotland from August to November 1641 by promising the official establishment of Presbyterianism. In return, he was able to enlist considerable anti-parliamentary support.[140] However, following the attempted royalist coup of "The Incident" in Scotland, Charles's credibility was significantly undermined.[141]

Irish Rebellion

Main article: Irish Rebellion of 1641

In a similar manner as pursued by the English Parliament in their opposition to Buckingham, albeit from a far less disingenuous stance, the Old English members of the Irish Parliament argued that their opposition to Strafford had not negated their loyalty to Charles. They argued that Charles had been led astray by the malign influence of the Earl,[142] and that, moreover, the ambiguity surrounding Poynings' Law meant that, instead of ensuring that the king was directly involved in the governance of Ireland, that a viceroy such as the Earl of Strafford could emerge as a despotic figure.[143] However, unlike their Old English counterparts who were Catholic, the New English settlers in Ireland were Protestant[144] and could loosely be defined as aligned with the English Parliament and the Puritans; thereby fundamentally opposed to the crown due to unfolding events within England herself.

Various disputes between native and coloniser concerning a transference of land ownership from Catholic to Protestant,[145] particularly in relation to the plantation of Ulster,[146] coupled with the gradual overshadowing of the Irish Parliament by the English Parliament[147] would sow the seeds of conflagration in Ireland that, despite its initial chaos, provide the catalyst for direct armed combat within England between royalists and parliamentarians. The success of the trial against Strafford weakened Charles's influence in Ireland, whilst also providing a natural conduit for cooperation between the Gaelic Irish and Old English,[148] who had hitherto been antagonistic towards one another.[149] Thus, in the conflict between the Gaelic Irish and New English settlers, in the Irish Rebellion of 1641, the Old English sided with the Gaelic Irish whilst simultaneously professing their loyalty to the king.[150]

Though 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),[151] it was in many ways a step too far by Pym and passed by only 11 votes – 159 to 148.[152] Furthermore the Remonstrance attacked the members of the House of Lords as being guilty of blocking reform, who duly defeated the Remonstrance when brought before them.[153] The tension was heightened when news of the Irish rebellion reached Parliament, coupled with inaccurate rumours of Charles's complicity.[154] The Irish Catholic army, established by Strafford, whose dissolution had been demanded thrice by the House of Commons, professed their loyalty to the king.[136] This was combined with the massacres of Protestant New English in Ireland by Gaelic Irish who could not be controlled by their lords, and proved to be the final antinomy between the English Parliament and the king in relation to Charles's authority to govern.[155] Throughout November stories of Irish atrocities, coupled with rumours of "papist conspiracies" in England, circulated the kingdom and were published in a series of alarmist pamphlets.[156]

Henrietta Maria (c. 1633) by Sir Anthony van Dyck
The English Parliament did not trust Charles's motivations when he called for funds to put down the Irish rebellion, many members of the House of Commons fearing that forces raised by Charles might later be used against Parliament itself. The Militia Bill was intended to wrest control of the army from the king, but it did not have the support of the Lords, let alone the king.[157] Instead, the Commons passed the bill as an ordinance, which they claimed did not require royal assent.[158] The Militia Ordinance appears to have been the single most decisive moment in prompting an exodus from the Upper House to support Charles.[159] In an attempt to strengthen his position, Charles generated great antipathy in London, which was already fast falling into anarchy, when he placed the Tower of London under the command of Colonel Thomas Lunsford, an infamous, albeit efficient, career officer.[160] When rumours reached Charles that Parliament intended to impeach his Catholic Queen, Henrietta Maria, the king decided to take drastic action.[161]

Charles suspected, correctly, that there were members of the English Parliament who had colluded with the invading Scots.[151] On 3 January, Charles directed Parliament to give up five members of the Commons and one peer 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.[151] However, news of the warrant reached Parliament ahead of him, and the wanted men – Pym, John Hampden, Denzil Holles, William Strode and Sir Arthur Haselrig – slipped away by boat shortly before Charles entered the House of Commons with an armed guard on 4 January 1642.[162] Having displaced the Speaker, William Lenthall from his chair, the king asked him where the MPs had fled. Lenthall, on his knees,[163] 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."[164] Charles abjectly declared "all my birds have flown", and was forced to retire, empty-handed.[165]

The botched arrest attempt was politically disastrous for Charles. No English sovereign ever had (or has since) entered the House of Commons by force.[166] In one stroke Charles destroyed his supporters' arguments that the king was the only bulwark against a rising tide of innovation and disorder.[167]
Parliament quickly seized London, and on 10 January 1642, Charles fled the capital for Hampton Court Palace. After sending his wife to safety abroad, he travelled north to raise an army against Parliament.[168]
English Civil War

Main article: English Civil War

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.[169] Following futile negotiations, Charles raised the royal standard in Nottingham on 22 August 1642.[170]

After a few skirmishes, the First Civil War began in earnest on 23 October 1642 with the inconclusive Battle of Edgehill. At the start of the 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.[171] Henrietta Maria returned to Britain for 17 months from February 1643.[172] The war continued indecisively through 1643 and 1644, until the Battle of Naseby tipped the military balance decisively in favour of Parliament.[173] There followed a series of defeats for the Royalists,[174] and then the Siege of Oxford, from which Charles escaped (disguised as a servant) in April 1646.[175] He put himself into the hands of the Scottish Presbyterian army at Newark, and was taken northwards to Newcastle upon Tyne.[176] 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.[177]
Captivity[edit source | editbeta]

Parliament held him 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.[178] By this time, mutual suspicion had developed between the New Model Army and Parliament, and Charles was eager to exploit it, apparently viewing Joyce's actions as an opportunity rather than a threat.[179] He was taken first to Newmarket, at his own suggestion,[180] and then transferred to Oatlands and subsequently Hampton Court, while more ultimately fruitless negotiations took place.[181] 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 the Scottish border.[182] 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.[183]
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 Charles 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 of the establishment of Presbyterianism in England for three years.[184]
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.[185]

Charles's only recourse was to return to negotiations,[186] which were held at Newport.[187] A biography of Sir Henry Vane, a "prominent member of all the commissions, which were appointed to treat with the King", describes his attitude: "During the negotiations with the King, he manifested a fixed resolution to do all that could be done to make the best of the opportunity the country then enjoyed, of securing to itself the blessings of liberty."[188] Eventually Charles's terms of reforming the government as proposed by the Long Parliament were accepted by the House at a vote of 129 to 83 on 1 December 1648. This allowed for the king's restoration with limited powers and the end of the stalemate between Parliament and monarch, ending the Civil War. Oliver Cromwell and the army opposed the measure, 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.[189] In Pride's Purge, the members of Parliament who had voted in favour of restoration were arrested or excluded by Colonel Thomas Pride, while other members stayed away voluntarily. The remaining members were called the Rump Parliament.[190]


Main article: High Court of Justice for the trial of Charles I

Charles at his trial, by Edward Bower, 1649. He let his beard and hair grow long because Parliament had dismissed his barber, and he refused to let anyone else near him with a razor.[191]
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 Charles on a charge of treason, which was rejected by the House of Lords. The Rump Commons declared itself capable of legislating alone, abolished the upper house, passed a bill creating a court for Charles's trial, and declared the bill an act without the need for royal assent.[192]
The idea of trying a king was a novel one; previous monarchs (Edward II, Richard II and Henry VI) had been overthrown and murdered by their successors, but had never been brought to trial as monarchs; although Lady Jane Grey had been tried for treason, she was treated as a usurper, not as a monarch. Charles was accused of treason against England by using his power to pursue his personal interest rather than the good of England.[193] The charge against Charles I stated that the king, "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...", 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."[193] The leaders of the army, who now controlled the Rump Parliament, considered the secret treaty with the Scots particularly unpardonable; "a more prodigious treason", said Cromwell, "than any that had been perfected before; because the former quarrel was that Englishmen might rule over one another; this to vassalise us to a foreign nation."[166] Cromwell had up to this point supported negotiations with the king, but now rejected further diplomacy.[166]
An estimated 300,000 people, or 6% of the population, died during the war.[194] The indictment against the king held him "guilty of all the treasons, murders, rapines, burnings, spoils, desolations, damages and mischiefs to this nation, acted and committed in the said wars, or occasioned thereby."[193][195]
The High Court of Justice established by the Act consisted of 135 Commissioners, but many either refused to serve or chose to stay away.[196] Only 68 (all firm Parliamentarians) attended Charles's trial on charges of high treason and "other high crimes" that began on 20 January 1649 in Westminster Hall. The prosecution was led by the Solicitor General, John Cook.[197] Charles refused to enter a plea, claiming that no court had jurisdiction over a monarch.[198] He believed that his own authority to rule had been 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, explaining, "Then for the law of this land, I am no less confident, that no learned lawyer will affirm that an impeachment can lie against the King, they all going in his name: and one of their maxims is, that the King can do no wrong."[199] When urged to enter a plea, he stated his objection with the words: "I would know by what power I am called hither, by what lawful authority...?"[198] The court, by contrast, proposed an interpretation of the law that legitimised the trial, which was founded on "...the fundamental proposition that the King of England was not a person, but an office whose every occupant was entrusted with a limited power to govern 'by and according to the laws of the land and not otherwise'."[200]

Over a period of a week, when Charles was asked to plead three times, he refused. It was then normal practice to take a refusal to plead as pro confesso: an admission of guilt, which meant that the prosecution could not call witnesses to its case. However, the trial did hear witnesses against the king, and condemned him to death in his absence on 26 January. The king was declared guilty at a public session on Saturday 27 January 1649 and sentenced to death. Fifty-nine of the Commissioners signed Charles's death warrant.
Execution[edit source | editbeta]

Charles Stuart, as his death warrant states, was beheaded on Tuesday, 30 January 1649. That morning, he called for two shirts to prevent the cold weather causing any noticeable shivers that the crowd could have mistaken for fear or weakness:[1]

"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."[1]
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 the people by large ranks of soldiers, and his last speech reached only those with him on the scaffold. 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."[166][201]
Charles put his head on the block after saying a prayer and signalled the executioner when he was ready; he was then beheaded with one clean stroke. His last words were, "I shall go from a corruptible to an incorruptible Crown, where no disturbance can be."[1]
Philip Henry records that a moan was heard from the assembled crowd, some of whom then dipped their handkerchiefs in his blood, thus starting the cult of the Martyr King; however, no other eyewitness source, including Samuel Pepys, records this. Henry's account was written during the Restoration, some 12 years after the event though Henry was 19 when the king was executed and he and his family were Royalist propaganda writers.[202]
The executioner was masked, and there is some debate over his identity. It is known that the Commissioners approached Richard Brandon, the common Hangman of London, but that he refused, and contemporary sources do not generally identify him as the king's headsman. Ellis's Historical Inquiries, however, names him as the executioner, contending that he stated so before dying. It is possible he relented and agreed to undertake the commission, but there are others who have been identified. An Irishman named Gunning is widely believed to have beheaded Charles, and a plaque naming him as the executioner is on show in the King's Head pub in Galway, Ireland. William Hewlett was convicted of regicide after the Restoration.[203] In 1661, two people identified as "Dayborne and Bickerstaffe" were arrested but then discharged. Henry Walker, a revolutionary journalist, or his brother William, were suspected but never charged. Various local legends around England name local worthies. An examination performed in 1813 at Windsor suggests that the execution was carried out by an experienced headsman.
It was common practice for the head of a traitor to be held up and exhibited to the crowd with the words "Behold the head of a traitor!" Although Charles's head was exhibited, the words were not used. In an unprecedented gesture, one of the revolutionary leaders, Oliver Cromwell, allowed the king's head to be sewn back onto his body so the family could pay its respects.
The royal retainers Sir Thomas Herbert, Capt. Anthony Mildmay, Sir Henry Firebrace, William Levett Esq. and Abraham Dowcett (sometimes spelled Dowsett) conveyed the king's body to Windsor.[204][205] Charles was buried in private on the night of 9 February 1649, inside the Henry VIII vault in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.[206] The king's son, Charles II, later planned an elaborate royal mausoleum, but it was never built.
Ten days after Charles's execution, a memoir purporting to be written by the king appeared for sale. This book, the Eikon Basilike (Greek: the "Royal Portrait"), contained an apologia for royal policies, and it proved an effective piece of royalist propaganda. William Levett, Charles's groom of the bedchamber, who accompanied Charles on the day of his execution, swore that he had personally witnessed the king writing the Eikon Basilike.[207] John Cook published the speech he would have delivered if Charles had entered a plea, while Parliament commissioned John Milton to write a rejoinder, the Eikonoklastes ("The Iconoclast"), but the response made little headway against the pathos of the royalist book.[208]
Following the death of the king, several works were written expressing the outrage of the people at such an act. The ability to execute a king, believed to be the spokesman of God, was a shock to the country. Several poems, such as Katherine Philips' Upon the Double Murder of King Charles, express the depth of their outrage.[209]
Legacy[edit source | editbeta]

Political effect[edit source | editbeta]
See also: English Interregnum

The image of Charles being mocked by Cromwell's soldiers was used by French artist Hippolyte Delaroche in his 1836 painting, Charles I Insulted by Cromwell's Soldiers, rediscovered in 2009, as an allegory to the more recent similar events in France, felt to be still too recent to paint

Charles I's five eldest children, 1637. The future Charles II is depicted at centre, stroking the dog.
With the monarchy overthrown, and the Commonwealth of England declared, power was assumed by a Council of State, which included Lord Fairfax, then Lord General of the Parliamentary Army, and Oliver Cromwell. The final conflicts between Parliamentary forces and Royalists were decided in the Third English Civil War and Cromwellian conquest of Ireland, whereby all significant military opposition to the Parliament and New Model Army was extinguished. The Rump Parliament continued to exist (with varying influence) until Cromwell forcibly disbanded it completely in 1653, thereby establishing The Protectorate. Cromwell then became Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland, a monarch in all but name: he was even 'invested' on the royal coronation chair. Upon his death in 1658, Cromwell was briefly succeeded by his ineffective son, Richard Cromwell. The Long Parliament was reinstated in 1659, dissolved itself in 1660, and the first elections in twenty years led to the election of a Convention Parliament, which restored Charles I's eldest son to the monarchy as Charles II. Oliver Cromwell's body was exhumed and posthumously beheaded.
The Colony of Carolina in North America – which later separated into North Carolina and South Carolina – was named after Charles I, as was its major city of Charleston. To the north in the Virginia Colony, Cape Charles, Charles River Shire and the Charles City Shire were all likewise named after him, although the king personally named the Charles River.[210] Charles City Shire survives almost 400 years later as Charles City County, Virginia. The Virginia Colony is now the Commonwealth of Virginia and retains its official nickname of "The Old Dominion" bestowed by Charles II because it had remained loyal to Charles I during the English Civil War.


Archbishop William Laud described Charles as "A mild and gracious prince who knew not how to be, or how to be made, great."[211]

Ralph Dutton says: "In spite of his intelligence and cultivation, Charles was curiously inept in his contacts with human beings. Socially, he was tactless and diffident, and his manner was not helped by his stutter and thick Scottish accent, while in public he was seldom able to make a happy impression."[212]

Both Charles and James were advocates of the divine right of kings, but whilst James's lofty ambitions concerning absolute prerogative[213] were tempered by compromise and consensus with his subjects, Charles I believed that he had no need of Parliamentary approval, that his foreign ambitions (which were greatly expensive and fluctuated wildly) should have no legal impediment, and that he was himself above reproach. Charles believed that he had no need to compromise or even to explain his actions, and that he was answerable only to God. He famously said, "Kings are not bound to give an account of their actions but to God alone".[214][215]

Titles, styles, honours and arms[edit source | editbeta]

Titles and styles[edit source | editbeta]
19 November 1600 – 27 March 1625: Prince (or Lord) Charles
23 December 1600 – 27 March 1625: The Duke of Albany
6 January 1605 – 27 March 1625: The Duke of York
6 November 1612 – 27 March 1625: The Duke of Cornwall, The Duke of Rothesay
4 November 1616 – 27 March 1625: The Prince of Wales
27 March 1625 – 30 January 1649: His Majesty The King
The official style of Charles I was "Charles, by the Grace of God, King of England, Scotland France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc."[216] The claim to France was only nominal, and was asserted by every English king from Edward III to George III, regardless of the amount of French territory actually controlled.[217] The authors of his death warrant referred to him as "Charles Stuart, King of England".[218]
Last Modified 18 Aug 2013Created 4 Mar 2023 using Reunion for Macintosh