Charles I., the second of the house of Stuart who sat on the English throne, third son of James VI. of Scotland and I. of England, and Anne, daughter of Frederick II. of Denmark, born at Dunfermline, Fifeshire, Scotland, Nov. 19, 1600, executed in London, Jan. 30, 1049. He became heir apparent to the crown of England on the death of his elder brother, Prince Henry, in 1612, was created prince of Wales in 1616, and succeeded his father as king in 1625. He early fell under the influence of his father's favorite, the duke of Buckingham, and in 1023 went with him secretly to Madrid, to confirm his marriage contract with the Spanish infanta. They travelled under the names of John and Thomas Smith, and arrived at the house of the earl of Bristol, the English ambassador, on the evening of March 7. They spent some months in Madrid, but the marriage, which was hateful to the people of England, appears not really to have been desired by Charles; and when he left, Sept. 9, the marriage articles, although formally confirmed, were in fact set aside, Buckingham being resolute against them, while the prince probably agreed with his companion. This early enterprise was most unfortunate, as being a beginning of that course of dissimulation and insincerity which was the great defect of Charles's whole career.
There was great joy in England that the match was broken off. Buckingham assumed the credit of the deed, but soon arranged a marriage with the princess Henrietta Maria, daughter of Henry IV. of France and his second wife, Maria de' Medici, at least as great concessions being made to the English Catholics, in order to gratify the French king Louis XIII, and his minister Richelieu, as had been demanded by the court of Spain, against which war was simultaneously declared. James I. died, however, before the marriage was even ratified. But on March 30, 1625, three days after the accession of Charles, the ratification took place, and after the lapse of about three months, during which delays occurred owing to the illness of Louis, the queen was received by Charles at Dover, formally married by him at Canterbury, and installed at Hampton court, the entrance of the royal party into the me-tropolis being prevented by the ravages of a terrible pestilence, said to be the most destructive within the memory of man.
The marriage itself was inauspicious; all its influences, both social and political, were of evil consequence to both king and kingdom; and the wife of Buckingham's bestowal was, to say the least, as fatal to the prospects of Charles as were the teachings and example of that minister, and the animosity excited against the crown, among the commons, by his baseness. Charles I. had education, some accomplishments, and a calm, grave demeanor, He had, moreover, a personal purity of morals and dignity of virtue which gave a new tone to the court upon his accession. But he lacked quickness of perception, and was very hard to convince or persuade; while his age was an age of transition, when new ideas were working, and new issues arising, demanding the most original as well as the most firm statesmanship. James had continually talked about his royal prerogative. Charles tried consistently to establish and maintain the ideas of which his father had been content merely to talk. To the end of his life he adhered steadily to the autocratic notions with which he began.
On the other hand, he had learned to dissemble; dissimulation was what his father had called '•kingcraft;" and Charles continually sought to secure power by this means, and to one supposing his concessions to his people sincere he appears weak and vacillating. His public course was changeful and fickle, but his letters to his queen and confidants reveal his duplicity, and his consistency to his first idea. His first parliament met June 18, 1625. It was not lavish in granting supplies, and was dissolved Aug. 12, and the king levied taxes and raised loans by his own authority, to carry on the war against Spain. On Feb. 0, 1G2G, a second parliament met, and was as unready to vote money as the first. It also impeached Buckingham, whose unpopularity was now great. Charles dissolved the parliament, imprisoned some of the leaders of the opposition, and then raised money again by his own authority. He also billeted soldiers on the people and proclaimed martial law in places. Although already at war with Spain, he plunged into another war with France, and tried to carry on both by forced loans and other illegal expedients.
But all expedients were inadequate, and he was at length forced to call a third parliament, which met March 17, 1028. In this body the opposition was stronger than ever, and framed a "petition of right," which claimed that the king should not levy taxes except with the concurrence of parliament, nor subject the people to trials by courts martial, nor imprison any subject without due process of law. Upon his assent to this was conditioned any grant of money. Charles at length agreed to the petition, and there was great rejoicing among the people; but after getting the money voted, he imprisoned Eliot and other distinguished members of the house of commons. In the mean time the English arms were covered with disgrace; yet still the king persisted in retaining Buckingham at the head both of his councils and of his army, and that favorite was on the point of again setting sail from Portsmouth at the head of an expedition to the coast of France, when he was assassinated by a man named Felton. The expedition sailed under another commander, but was too late and too inefficient to relieve La Rochelle, which, after having had the most positive assurances of relief from Charles, and after incredible sufferings, was obliged to surrender.
Parliament reassembled, after its recess, Jan. 26, 1629, but gave little comfort to the king, and en March 10 he dissolved it, with such expressions as were understood to preclude the assembling of another; and from this time till April, 1640, ho tried to rule without a parliament. Upon the dissolution of parliament in 1020, Wentworth, afterward Lord Strafford, who had been one of the opposition leaders, attached himself to the king. He was a man of great ability, but of unscrupulous character. He resolved to make Charles in fact the absolute monarch which he claimed to be, and he saw that the means to this end was a standing army. At the same time the ecclesiastical government of England was confided to Laud, who was made archbishop of Canterbury. Charles was a devoted churchman, and made as much of Laud's ecclesiastical work as of Wentworth's political schemes. It is doubtful whether the nation would not have submitted to Wentworth and endured a military despotism, had not the religious tyranny of Laud goaded the people into rebellion. Wentworth revived the court of the star chamber, and organized the council of York, by which the whole administration of justice was put under arbitrary control, while the high commission exercised a similar tyranny in ecclesiastical matters.
The king raised "ship money," and Hampden and others who resisted the illegal tax could get no redress. By the extreme high church assumptions of Laud, the Puritans of England were led to believe that Charles and his primate were bent on reintroducing the ancient worship of the Roman Catholic church; and although the suspicion was not true, yet, knowing that it existed, none are to be blamed but they for persisting in a course of conduct which could but aggravate and confirm it. Ireland, in the mean time, by the oppressive government of Wentworth, whose only object was to raise money in order to meet his master's exigencies without resorting to the aid of parliament, was driven to the verge of rebellion. Scotland, maddened by the king's attempt, at the instigation of Laud, to force episcopacy upon her contrary to the fundamental law of the kingdom, rose in arms, invaded England, and gained possession of Northumberland and Durham. The king made a fruitless attempt to raise funds to oppose the Scottish armies by summoning a parliament, but which, as it proceeded, like the last, first to consider grievances, he dissolved on May 5, 1640, within 20 days after its assembling, before it had given any positive reply to his demand for supplies. Tyranny in church and state was now at its worst.
Torture was inflicted for the last time in May, 1640. At this time Charles had a fleet of above GO ships at sea, which he maintained by the illegal levy of ship money; but he had no army on which he could depend, nor any means to raise one. Therefore, unless he would see the Scots march to York and take possession of the northern metropolis, there was no resource but to convoke the great council of the peers at York, who immediately demanded the assembling of the parliament, and to treat with the Scottish rebels. On Nov. 3, 1640, assembled the body known in history as the long parliament. Its first act was to impeach and then to proceed by attainder against both Laud and Stratford, the latter of whom was condemned and executed, abandoned by the king, for whom he had made great sacrifices. Some just and salutary laws were passed by this parliament; some illegal practices, which had been usual with the later English monarchs, were repressed; some grievances redressed; some rights of the subject firmly established. It also passed a bill that it should not be dissolved except with its own consent. This act was plainly unconstitutional, but was approved by the king.
The star chamber and high commission were abolished, and on Dec. 31, 1641, the house voted to consider on Jan. 3 the question of the militia. On Jan. 2 the king sent his refusal to the commons to appoint a guard for their security, but promised solemnly, on his word as a king, that their security should be his sacred care; but the next day his attorney general appeared at the bar of the house of lords, and in the king's name accused of high treason Lord Kimbolton and five members of the commons, Pym, Hollis, Hampden, Haslerig, and Strode. These were accused of endeavoring to subvert the fundamental law and deprive the king of his regal power, of alienating his subjects and army, of encouraging foreign invasion, and conspiring to levy war against him. These charges were for the most part aimed against their parliamentary conduct. The king demanded their arrest, and the next day came to the house in person to arrest them by armed force; but the five members had absented themselves by permission of the house. The excitement in parliament and in the city was unparalleled.
Some of the king's partisans wished to seize the six members, who were known to be in a house in Coleman street; but the king chose to demand them of the common council, and on the 8th he issued a proclamation for their arrest. The manifest unpopularity of his cause made his friends fear for his personal safety, and on Jan. 10 he left Whitehall for Hampton court. The next week the accused members were brought back with the enthusiasm of a popular triumph, and the rupture between the king and his parliament seemed complete. Parliament passed a militia act, which amounted to an army act, and Charles sent his queen to Holland Feb. 16, 1642, with the crown jewels, to raise troops against the parliament. On April 23 the king virtually began the war by trying to force an entrance into the city of Hull. The military governor, Hothain, kept him out, and was approved by parliament. The royalist members of parliament vacated their seats, and repaired to the king. The rest no longer tried to pass acts for the king's approval, but passed "ordinances." On May 5 was passed an ordinance calling out the militia. Charles proclaimed this ordinance illegal and summoned the gentlemen of York to form his body guard.
He made an address to an assembly of gentlemen in the town hall, which was received with applause; but the attempt to form a body guard was a failure. Another great meeting, 40,000 strong, was held on the moor without the town, where a petition was presented to the king asking him to be reconciled to his parliament, which he received with undisguised displeasure. Parliament now prepared for war. They proposed terms to the king which they knew he would refuse. On July 12 they voted to raise an army. On Aug. 22, Prince Rupert having joined the king, the royal standard was set up upon Nottingham castle. On Sept. 9 parliament published a declaration of the causes of the war; and on the 19th the king issued his "protestation," promising to respect the freedom of parliament, and declaring his purposes. Unhappily his private letters to the queen show that his professions were insincere. On Oct. 23 was fought the first battle at Edgehill, with alternating success, and without decided advantage to either side. Essex, the commander of the parliamentarians, was the first to withdraw on the following morning, unpursued by the enemy. On Feb. 22, 1643, the queen landed with an army. Prince Rupert carried many small places through the spring and summer. Hampden was shot in a skirmish.
Bristol surrendered to Rupert, July 25, and the parliamentary cause seemed weak and discouraged. Had the royalists now been united and prompt, they might have triumphed and utterly overthrown the popular party. They feared, however, to trust the king, and the battle of Newbury, Sept. 20, was a stubborn fight, and took away all hope of a speedy peace. The remodelling of the parliamentary army followed. Cromwell and Fairfax became its generals; and a discipline was introduced by the former as perfect as that of any modern service, and a spirit of religious enthusiasm which equalled or surpassed the enthusiastic loyalty and chivalry of the cavaliers. The new discipline proved its power in the battles which followed. An important battle was fought at Marston moor, July 2, 1644; and at Naseby, June 14, 1645, the royal cause was totally overthrown, and the royal army dissipated. After some attempts at negotiation, marked by his usual insincerity and chicane, with the leaders of the parliament and of the army, neither of whom he chose to trust, while neither dared to trust him, Charles delivered himself up to the Scots, May 5,1646, who, on Jan. 30, 1647, gave him up to the commissioners of the English parliament.
Cromwell, who as yet entertained no definite views, was prepared to play the part subsequently played by Monk; and Fairfax, who was averse to all extreme courses, was ready to support him. Yet, even now, when terms were ottered him by the Independents so advantageous that Sir John Berkeley, one of his trustiest adherents, declared that "a crown so near lost was never yet so easily recovered as this would be, were things adjusted on these terms," the king refused to concede anything, broke off all terms with the army, commenced new negotiations with the Presbyterians, and ultimately convinced all parties that there was no truth in him. The discovery of a fatal letter to his wife, in which he assured her that he designed for those rogues, Ireton and Cromwell, no reward but that "for a silken garter they should be fitted with a hempen rope," destroyed him. From that moment the chiefs of the army saw that the question lay between their own lives and his life, and they of course decided that it should not be their own, if they could help it.
Having been taken on June 4 by Cornet Joyce out of the hands of the commissioners and brought to the army, then lying at Triplow heath, and now in open rebellion against the parliament, he was taken on Aug. 16 to Hampton court, from which he escaped on Nov. 11, eventually seeking refuge with Hammond, the parliamentary governor of the Isle of Wight. Here he was imprisoned in Carisbrooke castle till Nov. 30, 1048, when, by an order of the council of officers in the army, he was removed to Hurst castle, on the opposite coast of Hampshire. The now dominant army promptly suppressed all risings in his favor. A force in the Presbyterian interest, under the duke of Hamilton, was routed by Cromwell at Langdale, near Preston, Aug. 17. On Dec. (5 the house of commons was invaded by Col. Pride, with a strong detachment of soldiers, and all members ejected except about 150, who were in the Independent interest. On Dec. 22 Charles was brought in custody to Windsor, and on Jan. 15, 1649, to St. James's. On Jan. 20 he was brought to trial in Westminster hall, before a high court of justice specially organized for the purpose.
Sentence of death was passed upon him, Jan. 27, and he was executed by decapitation on a scaffold erected in front of the banqueting house at Whitehall. - Charles I. had eight children by Queen Henrietta, six of whom survived him, viz.: Charles and James, afterward kings of England; Henry, duke of Gloucester; Mary, the wife of William, prince of Orange, and the mother of William III. king of England; Elizabeth, born in 1635, who died a prisoner in Carisbrooke castle Sept. 8, 1650; and Henrietta Maria, the wife of Philip, duke of Orleans, from whom, through a daughter, is descended the royal family of Italy. Charles was an elegant writer of English, and in the early part of his reign a zealous patron of the fine arts. The writings attributed to him are indicated in Horace Walpole's "Royal and Noble Authors," and have been published under the title of Reliquiae- Sacrce Carolince. Among them is the famous work, the Eihon Basilike, or "Portraiture of his Sacred Majesty in his Solitudes and Sufferings;" his claim to its authorship, however, has been much disputed.