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CHARLES I OF ENGLAND

The strong rule of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) and her ministers, with the consent of parliament, gave way to mismanagement under James I (1603-25) and Charles I (1625-49). These kings believed they were appointed by God, not answerable to parliament or people. Charles's behaviour led parliament to revolution.

Charles was crowned in 1625, and married Henrietta Maria, sister of Louis XIII of France. In the same year he dissolved Parliament for refusing to vote him money. Between 1629 and 1640, Charles I tried to rule without any parliament after its members (MPs) made him accept a Petition of Right, guaranteeing them powers such as approval of taxation, and forbidding arrest without cause. In return Charles received a grant of money to help with wars against France and Spain. The king's apparent support for Catholics made him more deeply unpopular with Protestant parliamentarians. His attempt to impose the Anglican Book of Common Prayer in Presbyterian Scotland brought outright rebellion. He also revived ancient taxes to pay for wars his people did not want. In 1640, desperate for funds to quell a Scottish revolt, Charles recalled parliament. He agreed some reforms, but in 1642 tried to arrest five MPs. The attempt sparked off civil war. The king left London for the Midlands to gather support. After royal victories, MP Oliver Cromwell forged a professional army. In 1645, at the battle of Naseby, 14,000 British Parliamentary troops (Roundheads), under Fairfax, defeated 10,000 Royalist troops (Cavaliers) under Prince Rupert. It spelled the end of Charles I's power and the beginning of Republican rule. In 1647 the Scots sell Charles I to Parliament for 400,000; he was kidnapped by the army but escaped to the Isle of Wight. There he was imprisoned, and plotted to begin the war again with the help of dissident Scottish nobles.

After losing the war, Charles negotiated with one faction after another until the army imprisoned him in 1648. Army leaders allowed only 60 MPs to attend parliament. They appointed a high court, which condemned the king to death. In 1649 Charles I of England was executed in London before a shocked crowd, outside the Banqueting House in London's Whitehall. The Commonwealth was set up under Oliver Cromwell. This event marked the end of the English Civil War. The king's heir, Charles, escaped to France. Because Charles I had behaved with dignity at his trial and execution (he wore two shirts so he would not shiver and give the impression he was afraid), he gained support and sympathy. This helped his son, who, after Cromwell's death, returned to Britain in 1660 as Charles II.

Charles was a great lover of the arts. His court was a centre of artistic patronage, and he collected many paintings and sculptures by Titian, Mantegna, Raphael and others. He commissioned Van Dyck to paint his portrait and Rubens to decorate the ceiling of the Banqueting House, designed by the architect Inigo Jones.



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