CHARLES I  1625 - 1649  (C1)   Lived 1600 - 1649


In the Thirty Years' War Christian IV of Denmark and Norway comes to the aid of the German Protestants, but is forced to agree to the Treaty of Lubeck four years later.


The Dutch found New Amsterdam on the island of Manhattan, off the east coast of North America. Some years later the town is captured by the English and renamed New York.


The Manchus, having gained a stronghold in northern China, move south and overrun the peninsula of Korea. They eventually bring about the downfall of Ming China in 1644.



Cardinal Richelieu, determined to make France an absolute monarchy, captures La Rochelle from the Huguenots, and continues his campaign against the power of the nobles.

The king’s physician, William Harvey, publishes his findings on how the blood circulates around the human body. He actually made this discovery twelve years earlier while teaching at St. Bartholomew's Hospital in London.

Following a series of disputes, Charles I dissolves Parliament and takes over the government of the country during what his opponents call The Eleven Years' Tyranny.


Gustavus Adolphus II of Sweden enters the Thirty Years' War in support of the German Protestants, but, after much success, he is killed at the Battle of Lutzen two years later.



Anthony Van Dyck, the Flemish artist, settles in England as chief portrait painter to the king. Knighted the same year, his portraits of the royal family are among his finest works.

The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan continues the conquest of southern India. It is in this year that he begins the building of the beautiful Taj Mahal, a tomb in memory of his dead wife.

Poems by the English poet John Donne are published two years after his death. A leading member of the Metaphysical Poets, he is best remembered for his passionate love poems.

The Italian sculptor and architect Giovanni Bernini completes his vast canopy over the high altar in St. Peter's Church, Rome. He later designs the piazza in front of the Basilica.


The Thirty Years’ War enters its final phase when France declares war against Spain. The imperial armies, forced to retreat, agree to terms at the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.

The Surrender of Breda, a Spanish victory over the Dutch in 1625, is captured on canvas

by the Spanish artist Diego Velasquez. He was painter to Philip IV of Spain for 40 years.


Harvard, the first American university, is founded at New Towne in Massachusetts. Starting as a school, it was named after its first benefactor, John Harvard, three years later.


Charles imposes Anglican rules - including the office of bishop - on Scottish churches. A widespread rebellion by Presbyterians leads to the first of the Bishops' Wars in 1639.

The French philosopher, mathematician and physicist René Descartes, regarded as the founder of modern philosophy, writes the first of his major works, Discourse on Method.

The first performance is given of Le Cid, a powerful tragedy by the French dramatist Pierre Corneille. This and other tragedies make him the father of the French classical theatre.


Having restored law and order in his Empire by mass executions (his so-called "Traditional Reforms"), the Ottoman leader Murad IV attacks the Safavids and recaptures Baghdad.

In Japan the persecution of Christians continues. During a rebellion, some 40,000 Christian converts are killed by the third Tokugawa shogun, and all contact with Europe is prohibited.


Having begun the invasion of Siberia in 1581 and slowly advanced eastwards, the Russians now reach the Pacific Coast and begin to consolidate their hold on this vast area.


Augustinus, the work of the Dutch theologian Cornelius Jansen, is published. Jansenism, the movement it inspires, stirs up a long period of controversy within the Catholic Church.  

A national revolution in Portugal overthrows Spanish rule after the "Sixty Years' Captivity", but independence is not officially recognised until the Treaty of Lisbon in 1668 (C2).

The second of the Bishops' Wars breaks out. In need of funds, Charles recalls Parliament. The “Long Parliament” reasserts its authority, but splits over a number of major issues.

The French artist Nicolas Poussin becomes court painter to Louis XIII of France. He lived and worked in Rome, but his classical style had a marked effect upon French art.


In Ireland, a Catholic revolt breaks out led by Rory O'More. Thousands of Protestants are

driven out of Ulster or massacred. The rebellion is not finally suppressed until 1649.


In January Charles enters the House of Commons to arrest five members. His attempt fails and he sets up his government and military headquarters at York to prepare for war.

In August the English Civil War breaks out between followers of the King (Royalists or Cavaliers) and supporters of Parliament (Puritans or Roundheads). Charles raises his standard at Nottingham and the first battle is fought at Edgehill. The result is indecisive.

The Dutch explorer Abel Tasman discovers Tasmania, but does not sight the Australian mainland. He then sails north of New Zealand and discovers the islands of Tonga and Fiji.

The Dutch artist Rembrandt paints his masterpiece The Night Watch. Apart from portraits, he also produced biblical and mythological scenes, and many fine etchings and drawings.


The mercury barometer is invented by the Italian scientist Evangelista Torricelli and is soon put to use in meteorology. He also assisted in the development of integral calculus.


The Battle of Marston Moor marks a turning point in the civil war. Parliamentary forces win a decisive victory, due to the action of their disciplined cavalry, trained by Oliver Cromwell.

The Englishman Matthew Hopkins, self-styled "Witch Finder General", begins his campaign

against witchcraft and sends some 200 people to the stake or gallows over a 3 year period.

Widespread rebellion breaks out in China. The Manchus, having already taken much of the Empire's northern territory, advance on Peking and finally overthrow the Ming Dynasty.



Parliament's New Model Army defeats the Royalists at the decisive Battle of Naseby. The following year the king surrenders to the Scots, ending the first phase of the civil war.

The earliest detailed map of the moon’s surface is produced in Selonographia, a work by the Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius. He also catalogued over 1,500 stars.


The Scots invade England in support of Charles I, imprisoned on the Isle of Wight, but their army is defeated by Cromwell at the Battle of Preston and forced to retire.

The Peace of Westphalia brings an end to the Thirty Years’ War. By it, the Swiss and Dutch republics are recognised, and France emerges as the major European power.

A rebellion known as The Fronde, protesting against high taxes and shortage of food, and aimed at limiting royal power, breaks out in Paris. It ends in 1649, but is renewed in 1650.  

The English “Cavalier Poet” Robert Herrick writes Hesperides, the set of lyrical poems by which he is best known. He was for many years vicar of Dean Prior, near Totnes in Devon.


The Trial of King Charles I takes place at Westminster. Found guilty of treason, he is executed at the end of January. The monarchy is replaced by The Commonwealth. The Prince of Wales, in exile at The Hague, takes the title Charles II and is proclaimed king by the Scots.


Charles I: detail, by the Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641), 1635 – Royal Collection, UK. Henrietta Maria: detail, after the Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641), c1632/5 – National Portrait Gallery, London. Pym: detail, by the English portrait painter Edward Bower (active 1635-1667), c1640 – National Portrait Gallery, London. Execution: artist unknown - Houghton Library, Harvard  University, Cambridge, MA, USA.  Coat of Arms: licensed under Creative Commons.  Author: Sodacan -


xxxxxCharles I was not born heir to the throne, but became so at the age of 12 following the death of his elder brother Henry in 1612. He became King of England, Scotland and Ireland in 1625. and, like his father James I, was a firm believer in the Divine Right of Kings. His total disregard of Parliament and what this body stood for eventually led to the fall of the monarchy and his own execution. A shy, reserved man with a slight stammer, he lacked the common touch, and came to depend on favourites for advice. Nor was he the imposing figure of a man that Van Dyck would have us believe! However, he was a courteous, well-meaning and religious man, and as a member of the High Church Party, stressed the importance of the English prayer book and the maintenance of ritual. Little surprising therefore that Puritans in the Commons should sometimes accuse the Anglican Church of "popish practices".

xxxxxThe prediction of his father concerning future conflict with Parliament was proved right with ominous speed. Needing money to fund his war with Spain, but unable to accept the growing demands of the House of Commons, he dismissed two parliaments in quick succession. In 1628, however, in order to receive much needed funds, he was obliged to convene another meeting and to accept the Petition of Right. Among other demands, this stipulated that the king should not levy taxes without parliamentary consent, and that no subject should be imprisoned without just cause.

xxxxxThe following year, however, alarmed at the way events were shaping, he dismissed Parliament once again, imprisoned a large number of its leaders, and, this time, ruled without parliament for what his opponents termed the Eleven Years' Tyranny. During these years he governed through royal courts, notably the Court of the Star Chamber, and, to reduce his expenses, made peace with Spain and France. For his income, he was now obliged to raise taxes by any means possible. One of these means, for example, was the so-called Ship Money tax, a levy which caused widespread discontent. Ostensibly introduced to expand the navy, it was first imposed on ports and then extended to inland towns. And money was also obtained by forced loans and a wide range of custom duties. This high-handed action was supported by his French wife, Henrietta Maria (illustrated), whom he had married in 1625. A Roman Catholic, she inevitably aroused a great deal of suspicion and ill-feeling among her Protestant subjects.

xxxxxAlsoxunpopular in parliament and the country at large was the king's favourite George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham. In October 1625 he led a disastrous naval expedition against the Spanish port of Cadiz, and followed this up two years later with an equally pathetic attempt to relieve the French Huguenots, besieged at La Rochelle. Andxfollowing his assassination in 1628 two other close advisors attracted the public's antipathy, the Earl of Strafford, the Lord Deputy of Ireland, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud, both staunch supporters of an absolute monarchy.

xxxxxIt was Laud, above all, who sought to diminish the influence of the Puritans, then dominant in Parliament. In 1637, as part of this policy, Charles introduced the reform of the Presbyterian church of Scotland, introducing the English prayer book and the office of Bishop into its administration. But the Scots would have none of it and, two years later, invaded England and involved Charles in two conflicts, aptly called the Bishops' Wars of 1639 and 1640. Indirectly, these proved the first step on the slippery slope to civil war. Unable to meet the cost of such a struggle, Charles was obliged to reconvene Parliament in 1640 and ask for money. This "Short Parliament" (it only lasted a month) refused funds, and promptly handed him a list of grievances. By this time, however, a Scottish army had crossed the border, defeated a royalist force led by Strafford, and occupied both Newcastle and Durham. The "Long Parliament" was then called to raise a more efficient army, but once again it insisted on reform before assistance. Led by John Pym (illustrated), it declared that the King's taxation had been illegal, abolished the Star Chamber and other royal courts, and voted that Parliament could not be dissolved without its consent. Greater religious freedom was granted to the Scots, and those who had sought to anglicise their Presbyterian church or oppose them were dealt with. Strafford was condemned to death and Laud a few years later.

xxxxxThe final straw came towards the end of 1641 when Charles heard of a revolt in Ireland, led by Rory O'More, in which thousands of English protestants were being massacred. When parliament refused yet again to raise an army without a redress of grievances - this time contained in the Grand Remonstrance - Charles could tolerate the situation no further. In January 1642 he took matters into his own hands, and, entering the House of Commons with a large body of armed soldiers, attempted, - unsuccessfully - to arrest Pym and four other leading members of the chamber. This action at once drew the battle lines between the Royalists, who believed that the King had a divine right to govern, and the Parliamentarians, who believed that Parliament had a political right to govern. The king left London almost immediately and in August, raising his standard at Nottingham, declared war.

xxxxxIn the Civil War that raged over the next three years, Oliver Cromwell, a member of Parliament, eventually emerged as the undisputed leader of the Parliamentary cause. Rallying to his side all those who supported the rights of Parliament and the Protestant faith, he helped to form an efficient Model Army and to defeat the Royalist forces (or Cavaliers) at the Battle of Naseby in 1645. The king then became a pawn in a struggle for power. He surrendered to the Scots at Newark, but because he still refused to accept Presbyterianism, they handed him over to the Parliamentary forces in January 1647. Then the army seized him and held him at Hampton Court. In November, however, he managed to escape to the Isle of Wight, where he was imprisoned yet again, this time in Carisbrooke Castle. Here, while attempting to play one side off against the other, he secretly negotiated a Scottish invasion in support of his cause. But his hopes were dashed the following year when the Scots, having invaded England, were crushed by Cromwell at the Battle of Preston. The king's time and good fortune had run out. He was brought to trial at Westminster, found guilty of treason, and beheaded in January 1649. He was buried in St. George's Chapel, Windsor.xxxxx

xxxxxIncidentally, Charles ordered the re-publication of his father's Book of Sports, much to the annoyance of the Puritans, and insisted that all clergy should read it. We are told that many were punished for refusing to do so. (Later, during The Commonwealth, sports and games were prohibited on the Sabbath). A cultured man and a patron of the arts, he brought both Van Dyck and Peter Paul Rubens to work in England.








































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