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Charles (November 19, 1600 – January 30, 1649) was King of England, King of Scotland, and King of Ireland from March 27, 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles was born into the House of Stuart as the second son of King James VI of Scotland, but after his father inherited the English throne in 1603 (as James I), he moved to England, where he spent much of the rest of his life. He became heir apparent to the three kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland in 1612 on the death of his elder brother Henry-Frederick, Prince of Wales.

Charles I, King of England, Scotland and Ireland

In 1620, Charles’s brother-in-law, King Friedrich V of Bohemia was defeated at the Battle of White Mountain near Prague and his hereditary lands in the Electoral Palatinate were invaded by a Habsburg force from the Spanish Netherlands. James I-VI, however, had been seeking marriage between the new Prince of Wales and Ferdinand’s niece, Habsburg princess, Infanta Maria-Anna of Spain, and began to see the Spanish match as a possible diplomatic means of achieving peace in Europe.

Infanta Maria-Anna of Spain was the daughter of King Felipe III of Spain and Archduchess Margaret of Austria. Archduchess Margaret was the daughter of Archduke Charles II of Austria and Maria-Anna of Bavaria and thus the paternal granddaughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I. Her elder brother was the Archduke Ferdinand, who succeeded as Emperor in 1619.

Initially in adolescence she was betrothed to Archduke Johann-Charles, eldest son and heir of Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor and his first wife Maria-Anna of Bavaria. Her fiance was her first cousin, being the son of her mother’s brother. The marriage never took place due to Archduke Johann-Charles’ early death in 1618.

Infanta Maria-Anna of Spain

Unfortunately for James, negotiation with Spain proved generally unpopular, both with the public and with James’s court. The English Parliament was actively hostile towards Spain and Catholicism, and thus, when called by James in 1621, the members hoped for an enforcement of recusancy laws, a naval campaign against Spain, and a Protestant marriage for the Prince of Wales.

George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, Jame I-VI’s favorite and a man who had great influence over Prince Charles, travelled incognito to Spain in February 1623 with Prince Charles to try to reach agreement on the long-pending Spanish match. In the end, however, the trip was an embarrassing failure. The Infanta thought Charles to be little more than an infidel, and the Spanish at first demanded that he convert to Roman Catholicism as a condition of the match.

The Spanish insisted on toleration of Catholics in England and the repeal of the penal laws, which Charles knew would never be agreed by Parliament, and that the Infanta remain in Spain for a year after any wedding to ensure that England complied with all the terms of the treaty. A personal quarrel erupted between Buckingham and the Count of Olivares, the Spanish chief minister, and so Charles conducted the ultimately futile negotiations personally. When Charles returned to London in October, without a bride and to a rapturous and relieved public welcome, he and Buckingham pushed a reluctant King James to declare war on Spain.

George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham

At the end of 1626, Infanta Maria-Anna was betrothed to Ferdinand, the younger brother of her first fiancé, and the new heir of Emperor Ferdinand II. Ferdinand was her first cousin, being the son of her mother’s brother. February 20, 1631, Infanta Maria-Anna was married to King Ferdinand of Hungary-Bohemia, who became Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand III in 1637.

With the failure of the Spanish match, Charles and Buckingham turned their attention to France. On May 1, 1625 Charles was married by proxy to the fifteen-year-old French princess Henrietta-Maria de Bourbon in front of the doors of Notre Dame de Paris.

Princess Henrietta-Maria de Bourbon was the youngest daughter of King Henri IV of France and Navarre and his second wife, Marie de’ Medici, and named after her parents. She was born at the Palais du Louvre on November 25, 1609, but some historians give her a birth-date of November 26. In England, where the Julian calendar was still in use, her date of birth is often recorded as November 16.

Princess Henrietta-Maria de Bourbon

Princess Henrietta-Maria de Bourbon was brought up as a Catholic. As a daughter of the Bourbon King of France, she was a Fille de France and a member of the House of Bourbon. She was the youngest sister of the future Louis XIII of France and aunt of King Louis XIV. Her father was assassinated on May 14, 1610, when she was less than a year old. As a child, she was raised under the supervision of the royal governess Françoise de Montglat.

Charles had seen Henrietta-Maria in Paris while en route to Spain. The married couple met in person on June 13, 1625 in Canterbury. Charles delayed the opening of his first Parliament until after the marriage was consummated, to forestall any opposition. Many members of the Commons were opposed to the king’s marriage to a Roman Catholic, fearing that Charles would lift restrictions on Catholic recusants and undermine the official establishment of the reformed Church of England.

Although he told Parliament that he would not relax religious restrictions, he promised to do exactly that in a secret marriage treaty with his brother-in-law Louis XIII of France. Moreover, the treaty loaned to the French seven English naval ships that would be used to suppress the Protestant Huguenots at La Rochelle in September 1625. Charles was crowned on February 2, 1626 at Westminster Abbey, but without his wife at his side because she refused to participate in a Protestant religious ceremony.