January 30, 2011

Divine rights

Charles I of England by Antoon van Dyck.

Charles I wasn’t having many good days in 1647, but January 30 turned out to be one of the worst.  The Scottish Army, after collecting ₤400 – part of their back pay – from parliament left him on his own to negotiate with some Scottish MPs.  He wanted Scottish support in exchange for establishing Presbyterianism for three years, or ten, or whatever deal they could get.

But before things were settled, Cromwell’s army seized him, took him back to London and tried him.  He was hanged in 1649, also on January 30.

Frankly, he had it coming.  He’d lied to everyone, betrayed those closest to him, and pretty much treated everyone like dirt.  He had the same arrogant, high-handed ‘divine right of kings’ thing going on as his father, James I, but apparently without the smarts.

Granted, it would have taken a very great brain to deal with everything going on in the early 17th century – Calvinism, the Thirty Years War, the rise of parliament – just a lot of changes economically, religiously, culturally.

But Charles seemed to combine average intelligence with above-average chutzpah – when he married Henrietta Marie of France 1625, he promised Parliament not to lift any of the existing restrictions on Roman Catholics.  At the same time, he secretly promised Henrietta’s brother, Louis XIII, the exact opposite.  And he agreed to support France against Spain, thus drawing England into the European war which Parliament was trying to avoid.

He asked Parliament for money for the war, but they were uncooperative, so he dismissed them after a month and ruled on his own for 11 years.

During that time, he taxed the hell out of everybody and everything.  He resorted to the dreaded Star Chamber proceedings to convict and condemn without trial. Eventually, he called the Parliament back, but it didn’t go well.

Finally, though, it was the Presbyterians that did him in.  His bishops imposed the Book of Common Prayer on the Scottish church, which led to a spontaneous outburst of opposition. The Church of Scotland got rid of the Episcopalian bishops, which Charles considered rebellion.

It’s a very complicated back story – he went to war with Scotland and by the time the English Civil Wars were over, with his own Parliament – but the upshot was that the deal with the Scots fell through and the rest of course is history.

For reasons that elude me, he was canonized by the Church of England, which refers to him as Charles the Martyr.


  1. What a grotesque piece of History! How do you have the fortitude to glean all that bloody stuff? Anyhow, thanks…history lessons are important.

    how do you have the


    Comment by GALYA TARMU — January 30, 2011 @ 8:49 pm | Reply

  2. Fancy footed reporting thank you.


    Comment by avery — January 31, 2011 @ 8:16 am | Reply

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