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Charles I
King of Great Britain and Ireland
(1600–49)


Biographical

King of Great Britain and Ireland 1625–49†
Prince of Wales 1616–25
Duke of Cornwall 1612–25
Duke of Rothesay 1612–25 [SCO]
Duke of York 1605–25
Duke of Albany 1600–25 [SCO]
Marquis of Ormond 1600–25 [SCO]
Earl of Chester 1616–25
Earl of Ross 1600–25 [SCO]
Baron Ardmannoch 1600–25 [SCO]
Defender of the Faith 1625
Great Steward of Scotland 1612
Knight of the Garter 1611 (England)
Knight of the Bath 1605 (England)

Charles I was a sickly child, unable to speak until his fifth year, and so weak in the ankles that until his seventh he had to crawl upon his hands and knees. Except for a stammer, he outgrew both defects, and became a skilled tilter and marksman, as well as an accomplished scholar and a diligent student of theology. He was created Duke of Albany at his baptism, Duke of York in 1605, and Prince of Wales in 1616, four years after the death of Prince Henry had left him heir to the crown. A Spanish marriage alliance had been mooted as early as 1614; but it was not until the 17th of February 1623, that, with Buckingham, Charles started on the romantic incognito journey to Madrid. Nothing short of his conversion would have satisfied the Spanish and papal courts; and on the 5th of October, he landed again in England, eager for rupture with Spain. The nation's joy was speedily dashed by his betrothal to the French princess, Henrietta Maria; for the marriage articles pledged him to permit her the free exercise of the Catholic religion, and to give her the upbringing of their children until the age of thirteen.

On the 27th of March 1625, Charles succeeded his father, James I; on the 13th of June he welcomed his little bright-eyed queen at Dover, having married her by proxy six weeks earlier. Barely twelve months passed when he packed off her troublesome retinue to France—a bishop and 129 priests, with 410 more male and female attendants. From then on their domestic life was a happy one; and during the twelve years following the murder of Buckingham in whose hands he had been a mere tool, Charles gradually came to yield himself up to her unwise influence, not completely, but more than to that of Strafford or Laud. Three parliaments were summoned and dissolved in the first four years of the reign; then for eleven years Charles ruled without one, in its stead with subservient judges and the courts Star Chamber and High Commission. In 1627 he had blundered into an inglorious French war; but with France he concluded peace in 1629, with Spain in 1630. Peace, economy and arbitrary taxation were to solve the great problem of his policy—how to get money, yet not account for it. The extension of the ship tax to the inland counties was met by Hampden's passive resistance in 1637; Laud's attempt to Anglicise the Scottish Church, by the active resistance of the whole northern nation, took place in 1639. Once more Charles had to call a parliament: two met in 1640—the Short Parliament, which lasted but three weeks, and the Long, which outlasted Charles.

It met to pronounce Strafford's doom; and, his plot with the army defected, Charles basely sacrificed his loyal servitor to fears for the queen's safety, at the second time assenting to a second bill by which the existing parliament might not be dissolved without its own consent. The pledge, as extorted by force, Charles purposed to disregard; and during his visit to Edinburgh, in the autumn of 1641, he trusted by lavish concessions to bring over the Scots to his side. Instead he got entangled in dark suspicions of plotting the murder of the Covenanting lords, of connivance even in the Ulster massacre. Still, his return to London was welcomed with some enthusiasm and a party was forming in the Commons itself of men who revolted from the sweeping changes that menaced both the church and the state. Pym's 'Grand Remonstrance' justified their fears, and Charles seemed to justify the 'Grand Remonstrance' by his attempt to arrest the five members on the 4th of January 1642, but that ill-stricken blow was dictated by the knowledge of an impending impeachment of the queen herself. On the 22nd of August he raised the royal standard at Nottingham; and the four years' Civil War commenced, in which, as at Naseby, he showed no lack of physical courage, and which resulted at Naseby in the utter annihilation of his cause on the 14th of June 1645. Quitting his last refuge, Oxford, he surrendered himself on the 5th of May 1646, to the Scots at Newark, and by them in the following January was handed over to the parliament. His four months' captivity at Holmby House, near Northampton; his seizure the 3rd of June by Cornet Joyce; the three months at Hampton Court; the flight on the 11th of November; the fresh captivity at Carisbrooke Castle, in the Isle of Wight—lead up to the trial at Westminster of the 'tyrant, traitor, and murderer, Charles Stuart'. He had drawn the sword, and by the sword he perished, for it was the army, not parliament, that stood at the back of his judges. Charles faced them bravely, and with dignity. On three occasions he refused to plead, denying the competence of such a court; and his refusal being treated as a confession, on the 30th of January 1649, he died on the scaffold in front of Whitehall, with a courage said to be worthy of a martyr. On the snowy 7th of February they bore the 'white king' to his grave at Windsor in Henry VlIl's vault; in 1813 the Prince Regent had his leaden coffin opened.

Place of birth: Dunfermline
Place of baptism (1600): Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh
Place of marriage: Canterbury (by proxy, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, 1625)
Place of death: London
Place of burial: St George's Chapel, Windsor


Son of King James I of England (Stuart) and Princess Anna of Denmark and Norway (Oldenburg). He married Princesse Henriette Marie de France (Bourbon) in 1625, and had issue.


 

Sources

1.
J.O. Thorne. Chambers Biographical Dictionary, 2nd rev. edn. London: W. & R. Chambers Harrap, 1923.
2. G.E. Cockayne and V. Gibbs, eds. The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland and the United Kingdom, vol. 3, new edn, rev. London: The St Catherine Press, 1913.
3. H. Montgomery-Massingberd, ed. Burke's Guide to the Royal Family. London: Burke's Peerage Ltd., 1973.
4. H. C.Matthew, B. Harrison et al. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2004-2018.


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