History: King Charles I
King Charles I for Kids
England's King Charles I holds the dubious distinction of being the only British monarch to ever be executed. The rule of King Charles I ended with his beheading in 1649. He was 49 years old.
Charles' life also had a rough start. As a baby he was very sickly. The exact cause of his infirmity is unknown, but there is some speculation that he suffered from rickets, a bone disease caused by a diet lacking in calcium and vitamin D. He overcame most of his physical frailties, although he had weak ankles and wore specially designed shoes for his entire life. He also had a speech stammer, which he was never able to overcome.
Despite his physical issues, Charles was a very good student and excelled in many subjects, including foreign languages and divinity. The death of his older brother, Prince Henry, during Charles' 12th year resulted in Charles being first in line as heir to the throne. Through the rest of his adolescence, Charles was groomed and instructed in all the aspects of ruling a kingdom and devoted himself to his studies and to becoming an excellent horseman, despite his physical issues. Through his studies Charles became extremely religiously devout, and began to believe strongly in the concept of the Divine Right of Kings, which is to say he believed that kings were chosen by God. He would act on this belief throughout his rule.
Charles I became king in 1625. He relied heavily upon the Duke of Buckingham to direct foreign policy. Buckingham launched a series of unsuccessful military strikes against France and Spain, resulting in disaster. Parliament twice attempted to impeach Buckingham from his post for incompetence, and twice Charles backed his man, dissolving parliament, and further perpetuating his belief in the absolute divine power of the king.
Charles convened a third parliament, because he needed money with which to wage is wars. He agreed to concede Parliament's power to legislate, but ignored provisions set forth by the legislative body. After the assassination of his cohort Buckingham in 1628, parliament once again attempted to curb Charles' religious policies. Once again, Charles dissolved parliament and imprisoned several of his enemies. He declared his absolute right to rule alone, and did just that for the next eleven years, a period known as the "Eleven Year Tyranny".
During the Eleven Year Tyranny, England's enjoyed some stability in foreign policy and financial areas. However, without parliament's ability to make tax law, Charles had to raise money for the nation's coffers in somewhat unscrupulous ways, including forced loans. It was also during this period that Charles misused the court of appeals to prosecute dissenters and opponents in order to increase his personal power.
Charles' religious devotion became more pronounced as well. He favoured ‘High Church' ceremony and did whatever he could to oppress other religious movements, such as the Puritans. The pushing forward of strict religious policies resulted in the arrest and condemnation to death of Charles' main church supporters, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Earl of Stratford. Charles did not attempt to help them.
Two civil wars resulted from Charles' disastrous reign, both of which he lost. After the second, the leader of the victorious side, Cromwell, had Charles tried and convicted of treason. He was executed on January 27, 1649.
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One in a series of articles of articles about British history written for children, see our range of historical children's dressing up costumes.