When King James I of England and VI of Scotland died, Charles Stuart was his only male heir. Charles, the second son of King James and Queen Anne of Denmark, was born in 1600. He was a weak and sickly infant, hardly able to walk when he was three years old–possibly from
rickets. He was unable to make the trip south to London to join his family until 1604. Sure that his elder brother, the popular Prince Henry, would inherit the throne, Charles was placed under the charge of Sir Robert Carey (remember Carey’s quick trip to Edinburgh?) and his wife. They taught Charles how to walk and talk and he eventually conquered his infirmities. Carey was rewarded in later life with honors and titles.
When Prince Henry died at 18 in 1612 (probably of typhoid), Charles became heir apparent at eleven years old and Prince of Wales in 1616. One of Charles’ first diplomatic efforts ended in disaster. King James sent him to Spain with the Duke of Buckingham (James’ favorite) to secure the “Spanish Match”–a Catholic princess to keep England out of the Thirty Years War. The trip ended in failure and hard feelings when the Spanish demands were outrageous and Buckingham was personally insulted by a Spanish diplomat. On his way to Spain, however, Charles had met the Princess Henrietta Marie of France and a marriage was arranged. Unfortunately, this introduced a Catholic influence into the royal family that would have horrific consequences.
In 1625, James died and was succeeded by his son Charles I. Charles’ reign began with conflicts with Parliament because he, like his father King James, believed that he was ordained by God to rule (“the divine right of kings”) Charles further believed that it was not necessary to consult with Parliament–“the absolute prerogative” of kings. He lied to Parliament about the terms of marriage contract in which he agreed to relax restrictions on recusants (Protestants who had reverted to Catholicism.”)
Buckingham who had demanded a war against Spain for their insult to him was assassinated to the rejoicing of the English public. Charles’ problems with Parliament persisted. Parliament refused to authorize the funds Charles needed for his Spanish war and decreased his access to directly taxed money. Their troubles went back and forth until Charles finally dismissed Parliament. He ruled without Parliament for 11 years. He revived old taxes and fines as a means of financing his reign and reinstated the granting of monopolies. During his “Personal Rule” the Star Chamber trials were reinstituted which took away due process and allowed confessions under torture. He also battled with the Scottish Bishops about standardizing Church doctrines and liturgy.
By 1641, Charles had recalled Parliament (later called the “Long Parliament) but the tension was evident from the start. By 1642, the king’s supporters were actively battling with his enemies. By 1846, the Royalists were facing defeat ad Charles fled to the Scottish Presbyterian Army who turned him over to the English. Charles was transferred among prisons while the Parliament decided what to do with him.
While in captivity, Charles encouraged further rebellion which occurred in 1648 but the Scots were defeated. He was tried for is crimes against the English people, was found guilty, and sentenced to death. He refused to plea and was sentenced to be executed. On January 30, 1649, King Charles I was beheaded at the Banqueting Hall of Whitehall Palace. His head was sewn back on his body, then buried in St Georges’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. Charles was declared a saint for his martyrdom.
Charles and Henrietta had seven children, with three sons and three daughters surviving infancy. The Stuart family were exiled to Europe where they and their supporters lived in relative poverty. The Roundheads ruled England until 1660, a couple of years after Oliver Cromwell’s death. Next Week, “The Merry Monarch.” Rita Bay