Charles I, King of England
CHARLES I, KING OF ENGLAND
Second Stuart king of England; reigned 1625 to 1649; second son of James VI of Scotland (became James I of England, 1603) and Anne of Denmark; b. 1600, in Dunfermline, Scotland; executed, Jan. 30, 1649, in Whitehall, London, England. Charles was the younger of James's two sons, and became heir apparent to the thrones of Scotland and England when his older brother Henry died of typhus in November 1612. He was acclaimed Prince of Wales in 1616 and succeeded to the throne upon his father's death in March 1625.
Charles I was the inheritor of James I's confused religious and political policies. In 1623, James's desire for an alliance with Catholic Spain led him to dispatch Charles, and James's favorite, Buckingham, on a covert mission to the Spanish court to seek the hand of a Spanish princess. English support, however, for the Protestant side in the Thirty Years' War, plus the princess's decisive rejection of Charles's suit—she retired to a nunnery rather than meet the prince—ended the proposed alliance. Instead, shortly after his father's death, Charles married Henrietta Maria, daughter of the king of France. As part of the marriage pact, he secretly agreed to allow English Catholics to worship at the queen's private chapel and to raise his children as Catholics until they were at least 13. In doing so, however, he alienated Parliament, which passed anti-Catholic legislation in response. Charles also alienated the Catholic faction by dismissing Henrietta Maria's Catholic entourage and sending them back to France. By 1627 the religious conflict had led England into war with both France and Spain.
Charles favored the Anglican High Church and promoted many High churchmen to prominent offices in ecclesiastical and secular government. His most prominent appointee was William Laud, made archbishop of Canterbury in 1633, who was passionately opposed to the radical Protestant Puritans and used his position as privy counselor and judge of the Court of High Commission to suppress all Protestant forms of worship other than Anglicanism. Charles's support of his archbishop and administrator alienated both radical and moderate Protestants, who saw High Church love of ritual and display as a first step toward reconciliation with the Catholic church. Laud's policies, especially his enforcement of a Book of Common Prayer, led directly to the "Bishops' War" in Scotland and to the eventual Royalist defeat in the English Civil War.
Bibliography: m. havran, "The Character and Principles of an English King: The Case of Charles I," Catholic Historical Review, LXIX (April 1983) 169–208. l. j. reeve, Charles I and the Road to Personal Rule (Cambridge, Eng. 1989). p. donald, An Uncounselled King: Charles I and the Scottish Troubles, 1637–1641 (Cambridge, Eng. 1990). c. russell, The Fall of the British Monarchies, 1637–1642 (Oxford 1991). j. davies, The Caroline Captivity of the Church: Charles I and the Remoulding of Anglicanism, 1625–1641 (Oxford 1992). k. m. sharpe, The Personal Rule of Charles I (New Haven, Conn. 1992). c. carlton, Charles I, the Personal Monarch (2d ed. New York 1995). m. b. young, Archives Photographiques (New York 1997).
[k. r. shepherd]