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Sunday, 9 March 2014

Charles I of England

Charles I was born in Dunfermline Palace, Fife, on November 19, 1600. He was the second son and third child of King James VI of Scotland and Anne of Denmark.

Charles was not as well-regarded as his elder brother, Henry, Prince of Wales. Charles himself adored Henry and tried to emulate him.

Portrait by Robert Peake, c. 1610

When Henry died of typhoid in 1612, Charles became heir apparent and was subsequently created Prince of Wales and Duke of Chester in November 1616. His sister Elizabeth married in 1613, making Charles virtually an only child.

Charles was a sickly child who was unable to walk or talk until the age of three.

When Elizabeth I died in 1603, and James VI became King of England as James I, Charles was originally left in Scotland in the care of nurses and servants because it was feared that the journey would damage his fragile health.

He was judged strong enough to go to England at the age of three and a half after walking the length of the great hall at Dunfermline unassisted. Charles was subsequently placed under the charge of Lady Carey, who taught him how to walk and talk.

Instead of Charles being punished for some misdemeanor when he was a boy, an unfortunate lad called Mungo Murray stood in for him. From this came the phrase "A Whipping Boy".

Charles spoke in a faint Edinburgh Scottish accent with a slight stammer.

Charles' father sought to strengthen England's friendship with Spain by marrying his son to the Spanish Catholic princess Maria, sister of Philip IV.  In 1623 he travelled in disguise with King James' favourite, the Duke of Buckingham to Madrid, where he spent eight months. They were rebuffed, and returned with ignominy, but to much popular relief at home.

Portrait of Charles as Prince of Wales after Daniel Mytens, c. 1623

Charles became King of England and Scotland on March 27, 1625 following the death of his father and was crowned on February 2, 1626 at Westminster Abbey.

He was called the “White King” as he wore white at his coronation instead of the usual purple.

In 1625 he married the Catholic French princess Henrietta Maria, the Catholic youngest daughter of Henry IV of France. She was 15 at the time and was tiny, very dark and had terrible teeth.

They had two weddings, firstly on May 1, 1625 in front of the doors of the Notre Dame de Paris. Charles didn't turn up for that wedding, a French Duke acted as proxy for him. The couple married in person on June 13, 1625 in Canterbury after Henrietta arrived in England with a retinue of a Bishop, 29 priests and 410 male and female attendants.

The marriage provoked Protestant suspicions of Charles’ Catholic religious leanings. Henrietta didn't attend his coronation at Westminster Abbey, due to the controversy.

Henrietta was a devoted wife despite spending much of her time either pouting or weeping. In fact Charles had such difficulty coping with Henrietta that the French ambassador had to be brought in to settle an argument on whether or not it was raining.

They had nine children with three sons and three daughters surviving infancy. Henrietta lost one child in 1628 when the midwife fainted with fright.

Henrietta Maria and King Charles I with their two eldest surviving sons, Charles, Prince of Wales, and James, Duke of York, painted by Anthony van Dyck, 1633.

An inflexible idealist, Charles I believed the king rules by divine right, appointed by God, and rebellion against the monarchy is a sin.

The period from 1629-40 when Charles ruled without Parliament instead using judges and prerogative courts was known as the 11 years tyranny. It started when Sir John Eliot read criticisms of royal tolerance in Parliament. He was arrested and Parliament was dissolved.

Charles wore shiny high waisted jackets, rakish hats and high boots which were the fashion at the time.

Charles I introduced the lovelock, a long ringlet usually separated from the rest of the hair, brought forward on the shoulder, and tied with a ribbon or rosette.

The 18 inches tall Rutland dwarf, Jeffery Hudson was served up in a pie to entertain the King. He was so taken with this that he took him into service in court where he entertained the Queen.

King Charles I's favorite joke was to place his court dwarf between two halves of bread and pretend to eat him.

A possibly apocryphal story. Charles once hosted a state banquet for many of his friends and family. Amongst the treats the King's French chef had concocted was an appetising new dish. It was cold and resembled fresh-fallen snow but was much creamier and sweeter than any other after dinner dessert. The guests were delighted as was Charles who summoned the cook, De Mirco and had him promise not to divulge the recipe for his frozen cream. The King wanted the delicacy only at the Royal Table and offered the cook £500 a year to keep it that way. However De Mirco did not keep his promise.

Charles was brave, cultivated but also formal, reserved, and inarticulate, and took few into his confidence. He was disliked by those who came into contact with him.

He was called "man of blood" by the Puritans due to his temper.

Charles was the last King to employ a Fool- a certain "Muckle John."

The only facility for depositing money in Charles' time was at the mint which was then in the Tower of London. The King seized the whole £200,000 that was there and called it a loan.

Henrietta was obsessed with dramatic performances at Banquet House. The famous architect Indigo Jones and the playwright Ben Jonson were made responsible for the court masques. Sometimes she dressed up and acted in the plays herself.

Charles had high brow tastes in poetry and music (he had a good ear for music.) Sometimes he joined the Queen at the Banqueting Hall masques.

The King was a fine and astute collector of art. His agents scoured the world over for acquisitions to his painting collection, which became the finest in Europe. Amongst the art he owned were works by Titian, Raphael, Rubens and Van Dyck.

Van Dyck's portraits of Charles, such as Charles 1 on Horseback 1633, sought to create an image of the King as a martial hero in the tradition of St George.

At 5ft 4, Charles was Britain's shortest ever monarch with a thin frame. He had shoulder length hair drawn back from forehead to show a high brow. His pointed beard was called a Van Dyke beard after the painter Van Dyke.

Portrait by Gerrit van Honthorst, 1628

After staying at a hamlet north of Painswick in Gloucestershire, Charles named it paradise as it was the most delightful spot he had ever seen. The local inn was renamed "The Adam and Eve."

Charles liked hunting deer and was an excellent horseman.

Charles established regular horse racing meetings at Newmarket where the Gold Cup was first ran in 1634.

He was an expert bowler who placed bets on himself. On one occasion Charles lost £1000 to a merchant.

The Royal Mail service was first made available to the public by Charles I on 31 July 1635, with postage being paid by the recipient. A letter received in London from Edinburgh cost between 2d and 8d.

Charles' ship tax to generate extra income to finance an effective navy was politically very damaging. The Democratic John Hampden refused to pay the £1 Ship Tax. He was arrested and tried thus lengthening the gap between Charles and Parliament.

After Parliament declared extra parliamentary taxation in 1642, Charles I attempted to arrest the parliamentary leaders. When this failed he withdrew from London and declared war on Parliament from Nottingham. In this civil war Anglicans and Catholics were fighting on the king’s side whilst Puritans and Presbyterians were taking Parliament’s’ side.

One of the causes of the Civil War was the support Charles gave to the unpopular Anglo Catholic Archbishop Laud who insisted that worship be kept rigidly to the Prayer Book. He also reintroduced stained glass windows and crucifixes. As a result Charles was suspected of Popish tendencies and many Puritans left for America. Charles in fact tolerated both Catholics and Puritans.

Henrietta was a zealous Roman Catholic and had been brought up in the court of an absolute monarch. Charles' marriage to her provoked Protestant suspicions of his religious leanings.  Her influence helped to manoeuvre the King towards the course of action that led to his war against Parliament.

Charles was likened in 1640 pamphlets to Nebuchadnezzar and Herod. His marriage to the Catholic Henrietta was paralleled to Ahab marrying Jezebel.



Henrietta's French attendants and Roman Catholic beliefs made her unpopular with the natives. In 1642 under threat of impeachment she fled to Holland and raised funds for the Royalist cause. A year later she landed at Bridlington and met Charles near Edgehill but was compelled to flee to France never to see Charles again. Henrietta returned to England in 1660 living for some time at Somerset House, London. She died in 1669.

Due to his battle with Parliament Charles had no financial aid for the last 11 years of his life. So he raised money by various unpopular methods such as levying taxes. He also got his Queen to pawn some crown jewels in the Netherlands and he sold knighthoods.

The Parliamentary forces defeated the Royalist Cavaliers at the Battle of Marston Moor on July 2, 1644. Charles I and lost control of Northern England, (whose population were strongly Royalist in sympathy) and the king also lost access to the European continent through the ports on the North Sea coast.

The Battle of Marston Moor, by J. Barker

Charles I sheltered in the White Hart Hotel in the market town of Moreton-in-Marsh following the battle of Marston Moor. He fled in panic without paying the bill when news of the advancing Roundheads reached him. 348 years later, in July 1992 a Civil War fan Christopher Long paid his outstanding debt.

Charles' defeat at Naseby in 1645 ended all hope of victory. He'd taken cipher notes and instructions how to use them to Naseby where they fell into the hands of the opposing General Fairfax.

In 1646 Charles surrendered to the Scots at Newark who the following year handed him over to Parliament for £400,000. He escaped to the Isle of Wight where he was detained.

Charles was imprisoned at Carisbrooke Castle, Isle of Wight for 14 months with his two youngest children. In the Summer of 1647 Charles claimed to his startled supporters he could escape from his prison as he had tested the size of the bars on the window against his head. However after some undignified struggle he conceded the rest of his body wouldn't get through.

Charles refused to be shaved from 1647, when his barber Uriah Babbington was dismissed by Parliament.

It is said Charles' hair grew grey whilst undergoing his trial.

At the Royal Manor House of Stoke Poges where Charles was imprisoned for a few weeks, you can see above the fireplace painted on the plaster wall is the royal coat of arms. Charles painted this to while away the hours.

The 1649 biography (almost autobiography) The Portraciture of his Sacred Majestie in his Solitudes and Sufferings was based on Charles' own papers and greatly helped the royalist cause.

On the day of his execution Charles wore two shirts as it was cold and he did not want to be seen shivering lest the crowd thought it was fear. His execution shirt is now at Windsor Castle library.

Before his execution Charles had a condemned man’s breakfast of claret and swan pie.

Charles I was beheaded at 2.00 on a snowy January 30, 1649 outside the Banqueting Hall at Whitechapel, London before massive crowds. He declared on the scaffold before his execution, “I die a Christian according to the profession of the Church of England, as I found it left me by my father.”

Contemporary German print of Charles I's beheading

His last word was "Remember" to Bishop Juxon, the Bishop of London on the scaffold just before laying his head on the block. No one knows what we were supposed to remember.

His executioner was heavily masked to keep his identity secret. His assistant, who held up the head of the King to the crowd, was also not identified. The executioner’s identity is still unclear.

The putting to death of England’s king gives rise to a religious panic as many fear that Armageddon and the end of the world was coming.

Immediately after his execution a book 'Eikon Basilike appeared which professed to be the King's own account of his sufferings in prison. It is thought it was written by Bishop John Gauden (1605-62)

Charles' body was conveyed to Windsor on the night of  February 7th. He was buried in the Henry VIII vault in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, in private two days later.

The colony of South Carolina was originally named by King Charles II of England in honor of his father Charles (Latin name Carolus). Maryland was named after Queen Henrietta Maria

Sources Daily ExpressAA Touring Guide of BritainAA Illustrated Guide to Britain

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