Alternative content

Get Adobe Flash player

King Charles I

King Charles I

Charles Stuart was born in Dunfirmline Castle on the 19th November 1600, the younger son of James 6th of Scotland who succeeded to the English throne and became James 1st of England in 1603.

Unlike his elder brother Henry, Charles was a sickly child, suffering from weak joints in his legs and a speech impediment, which was possibly the cause for his shyness and reserve. He was determined to overcome these difficulties and eventually became a skilful horseman and accomplished in many sports such as tennis, although this determination may have led to his stubbornness in later life.

He remained in Scotland until August 1604, when he was brought to England to be cared for by Sir Robert and Lady Cary until he was eleven years old. It was customary for children of noble birth to spend their early years with families other than their own. He was treated very much as the baby of the Royal family and appears to have been his mother’s favourite, but nonetheless he received a good education and was deeply religious. He also developed a love of the arts and music.

Charles became heir to the throne on the death of his brother Henry, probably of typhoid fever, in November 1612. He was therefore groomed for kingship and succeeded to the Throne on the death of his father in March 1625.

He was married later in this same year to the fourteen-year-old French Catholic princess, Henrietta Maria, and although they were not happy at first, they later became devoted to one another. They had eight children, three of whom died young.

Charles was not a good politician, and was greatly influenced in the beginning of his reign by his friend, George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham, whose disastrous advice regarding foreign policy, and Charles’ demands for money to fight unwise wars, caused the initial rift between the King and his Parliament. Buckingham was assassinated in August 1628, but by then much damage had been done and in 1629 Parliament was dissolved and was not called again for the following eleven years, the King choosing to rule without their advice.

During his years of rule without Parliament, Charles seems to have lost touch with the opinions and concerns of his subjects in both political and religious matters. Opposition to him grew, particularly among the Puritans and he showed little skill in diplomacy as he tried to regain his authority, for he still treated Parliament with contempt.