Charles I

Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) - Charles I (1600-1649)

Born: 19th November 1600, Dunfermline Palace, Fife, Scotland

Son of James VI of Scotland ( I of England 1603) and Anne of Denmark

Married Henrietta Maria of France, 1625, Notre Dame, Paris

Reigned: 27th March 1625 – 30 January 1649

Death: 30th January 1649, Whitehall, London.

Burial: 9th Feb 1649, St George’s Chapel Windsor

The reign of Charles I is probably the most significant monarch in British history. The only one to ever be put on trial, sentenced and subsequently executed.

Charles, like several kings before him and several to come after him was not born to be a king. His elder brother Henry had died of typhoid at the age of 18. At only 12 years-old, Charles was the heir to British throne. His father, James VI of Scotland had succeeded his distant cousin Elizabeth I as King of England in 1603, relocating the royal family to London. Despite Charles’ young age on leaving, he never lost his Scottish accent.

James died in March 1625 and the 24-year-old Charles became King. He was a shy yet arrogant man and struggled with the burden of his new role. Charles’ advisors were keen for him to marry, and negotiations his father had begun on his behalf had been futile. Parliament was not keen for a Catholic bride and particularly not a Spanish one owing to political dominance in Europe by the Spanish Netherlands. James had been trying to form an alliance for Charles to marry Maria Anna of Spain, however Parliament disapproved of this match. James angrily dissolved Parliament in January 1622 due to what he saw as an infringement of his royal prerogative. This attitude towards parliament would continue in Charles’ reign.

Charles I by Anthony van Dyck, 1633.

Outside Notre Dame Cathedral in May 1625 Charles married Henrietta Maria, the 15-year-old sister of the King of France. Their wedding was unusual as Charles was not actually present having returned to England after a tour of the continent. They were later officially married in England. The public were more trusting of the French than the Spanish, but there was still a lot of concerns about Catholics. Would Henrietta convert her husband? She was a devote Catholic and refused to be part of Charles’ coronation as it was Protestant. Their marriage had only been allowed with special dispensation from the Pope. Nevertheless, it was ultimately successful and they produced nine children.

Charles and Henrietta Maria and their two eldest children, Prince Charles and Princess Mary.

Like his father, Charles had a tricky relationship with Parliament. Much of this came from his deep rooted belief that he was appointed by God. This notion is known as the ‘Devine Right of Kings’ meaning that the monarch was only answerable to God and nobody, even an elected government could challenge this. The issues between Charles and Parliament started early in reign, the main problem concerning money. To acquire more money, Charles introduced taxes which were naturally very unpopular. He used the revenue to finance inglorious wars which cost more long term. This further deteriorated the relationship between Charles and Parliament. Additional problems of religion which aggravated the Scots and Irish led to various battles and skirmishes and ultimately Civil War. The nation was split into the Parliamentary Roundheads and the Royalist Cavaliers. Parliament naturally had the upper hand and gained control. The only option left was to remove Charles.

On 20th 1649, Charles was tried for treason and found guilty. Ten days later he was executed outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall.  His body was later quietly buried in St George’s Chapel in Windsor.

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