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Charles I

1600-1649. King of Great Britain and Ireland from 1625. In that year his marriage to Henrietta Maria, daughter of Henry IV of France, and his inheritance of Buckingham as political adviser, proved serious encumbrances from the start. The queen was a fervent Roman Catholic and headstrong in seeking to obtain special concessions for Catholic worship. Buckingham embarked on rash military expeditions abroad that ended disastrously, incurring serious financial loss. When Parliament refused the king the money he requested, Charles dissolved the body and resorted to forced loans. For eleven years from 1629 he ruled without Parliament. His unpopularity increased as he exemplified the principle of the Divine Right of Kings.* When Buckingham was replaced as royal adviser by Strafford and Laud* with their policy of “thorough,” the king's will was enforced through the Courts of High Commission (for clerical offenders) and of the Star Chamber (for laymen). Laud became archbishop in 1633, and began to press forward High Church reforms and to crush Puritan opposition. The Puritans Burton, Bastwick, and Prynne were savagely sentenced by the Star Chamber in 1637. Laudian divines were intruded into high office; one such was Juxon, bishop of London, who became lord treasurer. The High Church party, with its Arminian theology and seemingly Romanist tendency, thus became identified with this policy of acquiring a firm hold over church and state under king and bishops. By his inept handling of Scottish affairs Charles assured his downfall. The attempt in 1637, approved by Laud, to force the Scottish Prayer Book on Calvinistic Scots led to the signing of the Scottish national Covenant* and the abolition of episcopacy. Charles invaded Scotland, but shortage of funds compelled him to withdraw and summon Parliament to vote him the necessary capital. The Long Parliament of 1640 abolished the special courts and severely curtailed the independent power of the monarchy. Charles had to submit, but his attemp to arrest five members for high treason in 1642 played into the extremists' hands and issued in civil war. Presbyterianism ousted a religious establishment that had become so offensive. Even as a prisoner in 1647, however, Charles negotiated a secret treaty with the Scots, which led to a second civil war. It was this perfidy that prompted the army and Independents to bring him to trial and execution. In family life Charles was an exemplary character, but in public affairs he displayed a grave lack of trustworthiness and judgment. After the Restoration he was acclaimed a martyr and officially celebrated as such by royal mandate until 1859.

Edward Earl of Clarendon, The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England (new ed., 1888); F.M.G. Higham, Charles I (1932); G. Davies, The Early Stuarts (1937); C. Hill, Puritanism and Revolution (1958), chap. 1; J.P. Kenyon, The Stuarts (1958); R. Lockyer (ed.), The Trial of Charles I (1959).