CHARLES I (of England) (1600-1649), King of England, Scotland, and Ireland (House of Stuart), (27th March 1625 to 30th January 1649).
Charles I was born in Dunfermline, Scotland, on November 19th, 1600, the second son of James I. Charles became heir apparent when his elder brother Henry died, and was made Prince of Wales in 1616. In 1623, during the Thirty Years' War, Charles visited Spain to negotiate his proposed marriage with the Spanish infanta. The proposal had been made in order to effect an alliance between Spain and England. When it became apparent, however, that the Spanish had no intention of concluding such an alliance, negotiations were begun for his marriage to the French Princess Henrietta Maria, and England formed an alliance with France against Spain. In 1625 Charles succeeded to the throne and married Henrietta Maria, but his marriage aroused the ill will of his Protestant subjects because the queen consort was Roman Catholic.
Charles believed in the divine right of kings and in the authority of the Church of England. These beliefs soon brought him into conflict with Parliament and ultimately led to civil war. He came under the influence of his close friend George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, whom he appointed his chief minister in defiance of public opinion and whose war schemes ended ignominiously. Three Parliaments, convoked in four years, were dissolved by Charles because of their refusal to comply with his arbitrary measures. When the third Parliament met in 1628, it presented the Petition of Right, which demanded that Charles make certain reforms in exchange for war funds. Charles was forced to accept the petition. In 1629, although the assassination of Buckingham had removed a parliamentary grievance, Charles dismissed Parliament and had several parliamentary leaders imprisoned. Charles governed without a Parliament for the next 11 years. During this time forced loans, poundage, tonnage, ship money, and other extraordinary financial measures were sanctioned to cope with government expenditure.
In 1637 Charles's attempt to impose the Anglican liturgy in Scotland led to rioting by Presbyterian Scots. Charles was unable to quell the revolt, and in 1640 he convoked the so-called Short Parliament to raise an army and necessary funds. This body, which sat for one month (April-May), refused his demands, drew up a statement of public grievances, and insisted on peace with Scotland. Nevertheless, Charles advanced against the Scots, who crossed the border, routed his army at Newburn, and soon afterwards occupied Newcastle and Durham. His money exhausted, the king was compelled to call his fifth Parliament, the Long Parliament, in 1640. Led by John Pym, it proceeded against the two chief royal advisers and secured the imprisonment and subsequent executions of the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud, and Sir Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford. In 1641 Charles agreed to bills abolishing the prerogative courts, prohibiting arbitrary taxation, and ensuring that this Parliament would not be dissolved without its own permission. The king also agreed to more religious liberties for the Scots. Soon after, Charles was implicated in a plot to murder the Covenanter leaders, including Archibald Campbell, 8th Earl of Argyll. When Charles visited Scotland in August 1641, he promised Campbell that he would submit to the demands of the Scottish Parliament. While still in Scotland, the king received word of a rebellion in Ireland in which thousands of English colonists were massacred. When he returned to London in November, he tried to have Parliament raise an army, under his control, to put down the Irish revolt. Parliament, fearing that the army would be used against itself, refused, and issued the Grand Remonstrance, a list of reform demands, including the right of Parliament to approve the king's ministers. Charles appeared in the House of Commons with an armed force and tried to arrest Pym and four members. The country was aroused, and the king fled with his family from London. Both sides then raised armies. The supporters of Parliament were called Roundheads, and those of the king, Cavaliers. The first battle of the English Civil War, now inevitable, began at Edgehill on October 23rd, 1642. The Cavaliers were initially successful, but after a series of reverses Charles gave himself up to the Scottish army on May 5th, 1646. Having refused to accept Presbyterianism, he was delivered (June 1647) to the English Parliament. Later he escaped to the Isle of Wight but was imprisoned there. By this time a serious division had occurred between Parliament and the army. Oliver Cromwell and his supporters, the Independents, compelled Parliament to pass an act of treason against further negotiation with the king.
Eventually, the moderate Parliamentarians were forcibly ejected by the Independents, and the remaining legislators, who formed the so-called Rump Parliament, appointed a court to try the king. On January 20th, 1649, the trial began in Westminster Hall. Charles denied the legality of the court and refused to plead. On January 27th he was sentenced to death as a tyrant, murderer, and enemy of the nation. Scotland protested, the royal family entreated, and France and the Netherlands interceded, in vain. He was beheaded at Whitehall, London, on January 30th, 1649. Subsequently Oliver Cromwell became chairman of the Council of State, a parliamentary agency that governed England as a republic.