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Charles I

Charles I. (1600-1649), King of England, son of James I., succeeded his father as King of Great Britain and Ireland in 1625, and married three months after his accession the French princess, Henrietta Maria, thus at the outset of his reign giving offence to his subjects by an unpopular marriage, and beginning that series of misunderstandings and disputes which culminated in his death upon the scaffold. It would be impossible, in a limited space, to give more than a brief outline of the king's life, since a full history of it would entail an examination of one of the most important and stirring periods of English history, much of which will naturally be treated under separate heads, to which the reader is referred. After the death of Buckingham (q.v.), Charles was much under the influence of his wife, which, with that of Strafford (q.v.), the author of the "Thorough" policy, and that of Laud (q.v.), the High Church archbishop and Puritan-hater, had much to do with shaping Charles's policy and conduct during the most eventful part of his life. In 1628 the Parliament presented the Petition of Right, and having dissolved this parliament Charles did not summon another for eleven years. In 1640, however, the failure of his attempt to force a liturgy upon Scotland made it necessary to summon Parliament once more, and the Parliament, refusing to vote money before the redress of grievances, was at once dissolved. It is called the "Short" Parliament. In the same year the "Long" Parliament was summoned, and under the leadership of Pym at once proceeded to most vigorous measures. Its first movements were to impeach Strafford, and to vote its own dissolution impossible without its own consent. Charles had the incredible weakness to sacrifice Strafford, and to confirm the Bill making the Long Parliament immortal. In 1641 the Parliament presented the Grand Remonstrance, and in 1642 the king took the step of going down to the House and demanding the surrender of five members, a proceeding which Parliament and the country at large looked upon as a breach of privilege. From this point events marched quickly. To nineteen propositions made in June, 1642, which would have greatly modified the constitution, the answer was open war. With fluctuating success the Civil war went on till the battle of Naseby, and the revelation of the king's duplicity which followed, led to the king's flight, to Scotland in 1646. The next year his faithful Scots delivered him up to his foes, who, however, were now differently composed from heretofore. The army was now in the ascendant, and could dictate terms to the Parliament. Cromwell and Ireton, on behalf of the army, tried to make terms with the king, but the latter would not listen, and fled to the Isle of Wight from Hampton Court, where he had been kept in a kind of honourable captivity. Again Parliament tried to make terms, but the army took matters into its own hands and confined the king in Hurst Castle, from which they brought him to London. The Commons then, without the concurrence of the House of Lords, and in a House "purged" of those members who did not approve of the proceedings, constituted a committee as a High Court of Justice under Bradshaw as president; and in January, 1649, after a four days' trial, sentenced the king to death as a tyrant and traitor to his country. This sentence was carried into effect upon the 30th of January.