7 Interesting Facts About Charles The First

Sarah Heath

 A Triple portrait of Charles I by Anthony van Dyck


English monarch, Charles I is probably most famous for the way in which his reign ended. He was executed by beheading in 1649 after being defeated in the English Civil War by Oliver Cromwell and his followers. After his death, England became a Republic when Cromwell took over the reins under the self-appointed title of Lord Protector. However, England’s foray into Republicanism did not last long. Oliver Cromwell died from an infection just nine years later. His son, Richard ruled for two years, however the monarchy was restored in 1660 when Charles I’s son, Charles II took back the throne.

Discover Oliver Cromwell Medals:

1650 Battle of Dunbar, Military Reward Medallion by T Simon

1658 Naval Action Off Tory Island Medallion by W Muller

The beheading of King Charles the First is a well-known story. However, the king also led an interesting personal and public life. Read on to discover seven fascinating facts about one of England’s most controversial rulers.

1. Charles I was not always destined to become an English king

Charles I of England

Charles was born in Scotland in 1600. He was the second surviving son of Stuart king, James VI of Scotland, who also ruled England and Ireland as James I after Elizabeth I died childless. Charles’ older brother, Henry, was expected to rule after their father. However, he died at the age of 18. So, Charles took over the English, Irish and Scottish thrones when his father died in March 1925.

2. His childhood was not always easy

While this could be true of many of England’s kings and queens, Charles I was an especially sickly child. He spoke with a stammer and was often laid low by illness. When James I took up the English throne in 1603, the whole family moved to England apart from Charles, who was three years old at the time. He remained in Scotland for a year until he was deemed strong enough to travel to join the rest of his family. Later on, Charles’ enemies would use his speech impediment to mock him and cast doubt on his abilities to rule.


3. A search for a wife ended in a declaration of war!

    In 1623, James I sent his favourite courtier, the Duke of Buckingham, to accompany Charles to Spain to find a suitable wife for the young heir. Tensions between Catholics and Protestants were rising and the king hoped that a union between the Protestant Charles and Catholic Maria Anna of Spain would help smooth things over. On the pair’s arrival in Spain, however, King Philip VI demanded that Charles not only convert to Catholicism, but remain in Spain for a year. Charles was furious at this change in terms and returned home, urging his father to declare war on Spain instead.

    4. Charles eventually married – but in absentia!

    Portrait of Charles I of England with his wife, Henrietta Maria

    Happily, just two years later, Charles found himself the perfect bride in the form of Henrietta Maria of France. The wedding took place in May 1625 in front of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. However, the blushing bride was unable to kiss her new husband in front of an adoring crowd. This was because Charles wasn’t actually there. He sent a proxy to stand in for him while he remained in England to oversee matters of state. He and Henrietta finally met a few months later after she travelled to England to be with her new husband. Unfortunately, her Catholic status angered the House of Commons and the public did not take well to their new queen.

    5. He fathered two English kings and the first Princess Royal

    Portrait of Charles II in Garter Robes

     Charles and Henrietta had a mostly happy marriage. They had ten children, although not all of them survived into adulthood. Their eldest son, Charles, was crowned Charles II in 1660 and ruled for 25 years until his death from a fatal medical condition. Charles II was succeeded by his brother James, who was Charles I’s second son. He ascended the English throne as James II in 1685. In other news, Charles I’s eldest daughter Mary married William II of Orange at just nine years old. Charles I gave Mary the title of Princess Royal, which remains the styling for the monarch’s oldest daughter to this day.

    Discover The Related Medallions:

    1662 Charles II & Catherine Medal - Marriage (Golden Medal)

    1661 Charles II Coronation Historical Medallion by T Simon

    1660 Charles II Restoration Historical Medallion by J Roettier


    6. His disagreements with parliament led to Civil War

    Charles I made many decisions during his reign that rendered him unpopular with his people. Four years after his marriage to the unpopular Henrietta, he dissolved Parliament in 1629 in a bid to avoid a costly war with Spain and France. He ruled alone until he was forced to recall Parliament in 1640 during a period of history known as the Eleven Years’ Tyranny. This act, along with several exacting tax levies and laws led to popularist support increasing for forces seeking to oust him as king and install a Parliamentarian leader by means of civil war.


    7. He was the only English king ever to be executed for treason

    The execution of King Charles I

    After being defeated in the English Civil War, Charles I was tried for treason in January 1649 by Oliver Cromwell’s specially formed Rump Parliament. Charles firmly believed that the Divine Right of Kings meant that God had put him in his appointed position. He argued that it was therefore impossible for a king to commit treason. Charles I was found guilty and condemned to death by beheading. At his execution, he gave an impassioned speech defending his actions as king. He is buried in St George’s Chapel, Windsor.

    Discover The Related Medallions:

    1649 Death of Charles I Historical Medallion by German Artist

    1649 Death of Charles I Historical Medallion by J & N Roettier


    Discover our collection of King Charles the First medals

    There are currently four separate medals available from Historical Medallions that pertain to the tumultuous reign and death of Charles the First. One marks his Coronation in 1626 as king of England. A second Coronation medal commemorates his formal ascension to the Scottish throne in 1633. Finally, two medals depict the events around the Stuart king’s execution by beheading in January 1649 in London.

    Discover The Related Medallions:

    1633 Charles I - Return to London After Scottish Coronation

    1626 Coronation of Charles I Historical Medal by N Briot

    To find out more and to browse the entire collection of royal and 17th-century commemorative medals and medallions, please go to: 17th Century Historical Medals & Medallions


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