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Charles I (November 19, 1600 – January 30, 1649) was King of England, Scotland, and Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. He was born into the House of Stuart as the second son of King James VI of Scotland and Anne of Denmark and King Frederik II of Denmark and Norway and Sophie of Mecklenburg-Güstrow.

James VI was the first cousin twice removed of Queen Elizabeth I of England and Ireland, and when she died childless in March of 1603, he became King of England and Ireland as James I. Charles was a weak and sickly infant, and while his parents and older siblings left for England in April and early June that year, due to his fragile health, he remained in Scotland with his father’s friend Lord Fyvie, appointed as his guardian.

By 1604, when Charles was three-and-a-half, he was able to walk the length of the great hall at Dunfermline Palace without assistance, and it was decided that he was strong enough to journey to England to be reunited with his family.

In January 1605, Charles was created Duke of York, as is customary in the case of the English sovereign’s second son, and made a Knight of the Bath. In 1611, he was made a Knight of the Garter.

Eventually, Charles apparently conquered his physical infirmity, which might have been caused by rickets. Even so, his public profile remained low in contrast to that of his physically stronger and taller elder brother, Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, whom Charles adored and attempted to emulate.

In early November 1612, Henry Frederick died at the age of 18 of what is suspected to have been typhoid (or possibly porphyria). Charles, who turned 12 two weeks later, became heir apparent. As the eldest surviving son of the sovereign, he automatically gained several titles, including Duke of Cornwall and Duke of Rothesay. In November 1616, he was created Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester.

In 1623 an unsuccessful and unpopular attempt to marry him to aSpanish Habsburg princess culminated in an eight-month visit to Spain that demonstrated the marriage negotiations’ futility.

Infanta Maria Anna of Spain, Archduchess of Austria

The princess in question was Infanta Maria Anna of Spain (1606 – 1646) the daughter of King Felipe III of Spain and his wife/cousin Archduchess Margaret of Austria, sister of Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor. Infanta Maria Anna would later become Holy Roman Empress and Queen of Hungary and Bohemia by her marriage to her cousin Ferdinand III, Holy Roman Emperor.

Two years later, Charles married the Bourbon princess Henrietta Maria of France. the youngest daughter of Henri IV of France (Henri III of Navarre) and his second wife, Marie de’ Medici, and was named after her parents.

Henrietta Maria was brought up as a Roman 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. Her father was assassinated in 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.

Henrietta Maria de Bourbon of France

Henrietta Maria was the mother of King Charles’ two immediate successors, Charles II and James II-VII. Contemporaneously, by a decree of her husband, she was known in England as Queen Mary, but she did not like this name and signed her letters “Henriette R” or “Henriette Marie R” (the “R” standing for regina, Latin for “queen”.)

King James I-VI of England, Scotland and Ireland died on March 27, 1625 and Charles succeeded him in all three kingdoms.

After his succession Charles quarrelled with the Parliament of England, which sought to curb his royal prerogative. He believed in the divine right of kings, and was determined to govern according to his own conscience.

Many of his subjects opposed his policies, in particular the levying of taxes without parliamentary consent, and perceived his actions as those of a tyrannical absolute monarch. His religious policies, coupled with his marriage to a Roman Catholic, generated antipathy and mistrust from Reformed religious groups such as the English Puritans and Scottish Covenanters, who thought his views too Catholic.

He supported high church Anglican ecclesiastics such as Richard Montagu and William Laud, and failed to aid continental Protestant forces successfully during the Thirty Years’ War. His attempts to force the Church of Scotland to adopt high Anglican practices led to the Bishops’ Wars, strengthened the position of the English and Scottish parliaments, and helped precipitate his own downfall.

From 1642, Charles fought the armies of the English and Scottish parliaments in the English Civil War. After his defeat in 1645, he surrendered to a Scottish force that eventually handed him over to the English Parliament (the “Long Parliament”). Charles refused to accept his captors’ demands for a constitutional monarchy, and temporarily escaped captivity in November 1647.

Re-imprisoned on the Isle of Wight, he forged an alliance with Scotland, but by the end of 1648 the Parliamentarian New Model Army had consolidated its control over England. Charles was tried, convicted, and executed for high treason in January 1649.

The monarchy was abolished and the Commonwealth of England was established as a republic. The monarchy was restored to Charles’s son, Charles II, in 1660.