Famous for being a King of Britain, executed in 1649
Born - 19th November 1600, Dunfermline Scotland
Parents - James I, Anne of Denmark
Siblings - Henry Frederick, Elizabeth, Robert
Married - Henrietta Maria of France
Children - Charles, Mary, James, Elizabeth, Anne, Henry, Henrietta
Died - 30th January 1649 beheaded Whitehall, London aged 48 years
Charles was born on 19th November 1601 the second son of James I and Anne of Denmark. In 1612 he became heir to the English and Scottish throne when his elder brother Henry died.
Charles became king on 27th March 1625. Like his father he believed in the Divine Right of Kings. He made a number of decisions that angered parliament.
In the first year of his reign, Charles married Princess Henrietta Maria of France, a Catholic. Parliament were concerned about the marriage because they did not want to see a return to Catholicism and they believed that a Catholic Queen would raise their children to the Catholic faith.
Instead of listening to the advice of his Parliament, Charles chose the Duke of Buckingham as his main advisor. Parliament disliked Buckingham and resented his level of power over the King. In 1623 he had been responsible for taking England to war with Spain and parliament used this to bring a charge of treason against him.
However, the King dismissed parliament in order to save his favourite. In 1627, Buckingham led a campaign into France which saw the English army badly defeated. In 1628, while preparing for a naval invasion of France, Buckingham was assassinated.
It had always been the custom that in times of war, people living on the coast, would pay extra taxes for the defence of the coastline by naval ships.
In 1634, Charles decided that 'ship money' should be paid all the time. One year later he demanded that people living inland should also pay 'ship money'. The people were not pleased and a man named John Hampden refused to pay the tax until it had been agreed by parliament. The case went to court and the judge found Charles' actions to be legal. The people had no choice but to pay.
In 1639, Charles needed an army to go to Scotland to force the Scots to use the English Prayer book. A new tax was introduced to pay for the army. People now had to pay two taxes and many simply refused. Many of those jailed for not paying the taxes were released by sympathetic jailors. By 1639 most of the population was against Charles. 'Ship Money' was made illegal in 1641.
The Irish Catholics were fed up with being ruled by English Protestants who had been given land in Ireland by James I. In 1641, news reached London that the Catholics were revolting. As the news travelled it was exaggerated and Londoners learned that 20,000 Protestants had been murdered. Rumours spread that Charles was behind the rebellion in a bid to make the whole of the United Kingdom Catholic. An army had to be sent to Ireland to put the rebellion down but who was to control the army. Parliament was worried that if Charles had control of the army he would use it to regain control over Parliament. In the same way, if Parliament controlled the army they would use it to control the King. It was a stalemate.
Having been dismissed from office for eleven years, this parliament was determined to make the most of being recalled and Charles' favourite, Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, of treason. Strafford was executed in May 1641. In November 1641, parliament presented the King with a list of grievances called the Grand Remonstrance that asked for the power of bishops to be reduced and for Charles' councillors to be men trusted by parliament. However, not all members of parliament were in favour of the Grand Remonstrance. It was only passed by 159 votes to 148. In January 1642 Charles made what was the most foolish move of his reign. He burst into the Houses of Parliament with 400 soldiers and demanded that the five leading MPs be arrested. The five MPs had had advance warning and had fled.
In June 1642 the Long Parliament passed a new set of demands called the Nineteen Proposals that called for the King's powers to be greatly reduced and a greater control of government to be given to parliament. This move divided parliament between those who supported the Nineteen Proposals and those who thought parliament had gone too far.
Both Parliament and Charles began collecting together their own armies. War was inevitable. People were forced to choose sides and on 22nd August 1642, the King raised his standard at Nottingham. Those that supported the king were called Royalists and those that supported parliament were called Parliamentarians.
The Royalists had some initial successes in the Civil War that followed. However the parliamentarians introduced the New Model army which was trained and disciplined and began winning battles. The battle of Naseby was the last major battle and when it became clear that Parliament would win Charles fled.
Charles eventually surrendered in 1646 and was imprisoned in 1647. He escaped from prison but was recaptured. He was accused of treason, found guilty and sentenced to death. He was beheaded at Whitehall, London on 30th January 1649.