Charles I
King of England, Scotland, and Ireland

1600 - 1649

Charles I became king of England, Scotland, and Ireland in 1625. Charles supported the divine right of kings [see Lex Rex], the belief that a monarch's right to rule came from God, not from the people. His conflicts with Parliament helped lead to the English Civil War in 1642. Charles was a member of the House of Stuart.

From 1625 to 1629, Charles called three Parliaments and dissolved each one because the members demanded political and religious reforms that he opposed. In 1628, he reluctantly accepted the Petition of Right, a document that was drawn up by Parliament and which insisted that Charles rule by existing laws.

Charles ruled without Parliament from 1629 to 1640. He tried to force Scotland to use English forms of worship, and in 1639 the Scots rebelled. Charles had to call Parliament to obtain money to fight the rebels. He dismissed one Parliament, called the Short Parliament, after three weeks, but he had to summon another. This Parliament, known as the Long Parliament, met from 1640 to 1653 and again briefly in 1660. In 1641, it passed sweeping political and legal reforms.

The king tried to arrest six parliamentary leaders in 1642. This attempt helped lead to civil war later that year. Charles had the support of many members of the upper classes and of the clergy of the Church of England. Numerous merchants and religious reformers called Puritans supported Parliament. Oliver Cromwell, a Puritan and parliamentary general, won key battles. Charles surrendered to Scotland's army, and the war ended in 1646. Soon afterward, Scottish leaders turned Charles over to Parliament. He escaped in 1647, leading to another but shorter civil war in 1648. In 1649, a special court created by Parliament convicted Charles of treason and he was beheaded.

Related documents:

< King Charles I, Speech at his Trial

< The execution of King Charles I

< Oliver Cromwell

< Lex Rex -- law is king

< Petition of Right

Contributor: Richard L. Greaves, Ph.D., Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Prof. of History and Courtesy Prof. of Religion, Florida State Univ.


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