20 Facts About the Tragic Life of Charles I

20 Facts About the Tragic Life of Charles I

Tim Flight - January 16, 2019

England has had some truly woeful monarchs over the years. Ethelred the Unready somehow didn’t realise that paying the Vikings to stop every time they attacked his kingdom just encouraged them to do it again. Edward II was so busy hanging out with his lover, Piers Gaveston, that he lost most of his father’s kingdoms. King John was such a rubbish king that he unwittingly became a pioneer of democracy when his people got so sick of him that they made him sign the Magna Carta. King George III was utterly mad, but still reigned for 60 years.

But of all England’s dreadful kings and queens, only one has the unlucky distinction of being tried and executed by his own people. That man was King Charles I (1600-49), and the English people hated him so much that they started a Civil War against him, cut off his head, and decided not to have a king or queen at all for the 11 years after his death. But was Charles really that bad, or were his subjects the real problem? Let’s find out by looking at the essential 20 facts about poor old Charles Stuart.

20 Facts About the Tragic Life of Charles I
Three Protestant women and even a baby are burned for heresy, from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, London, 1563. Queen Anne Boleyn

20. 17th century England was gripped by bloody debates over the Reformation.

Charles lived in an especially turbulent period of history. In the 1530s, Henry VIII ended nearly 1000 years of Catholicism in England by bringing about the English Reformation, principally to divorce his aging wife and marry a younger one. We don’t need to go into the specifics differences between Catholicism and the new Protestant Church of England, but suffice it to say that the people were divided. They believed that which version of Christianity they were made to follow determined whether they went to heaven or hell, and so tensions ran extremely high. Reformation was revolutionary, bloody, and utterly divisive.

Henry burned those who refused to give up Catholicism at the stake. When his daughter Mary I came to the throne, she changed England’s religion back to Catholicism, and went about burning prominent church reformers and ordinary Protestants who refused to cooperate, such as those above. Her successor, Elizabeth I, reverted England back to Protestantism again, and burned her fair share of stubborn Catholics. By the 17th century, the country was still divided: people on both sides had an axe to grind with their faith’s historic treatment, and firmly believed their version of Christianity was the only right one.

20 Facts About the Tragic Life of Charles I
Charles’s Father, James I, in a portrait attributed to John de Critz, England, c.1605. Wikimedia Commons

19. His father, James I, was paranoid and autocratic.

When Elizabeth died childless, pretty much whoever she named as her heir would thus infuriate a large part of the divided population. James VI of Scotland succeeded her, to the chagrin of Catholics who hoped that he would have the same faith as his Catholic mother, Mary Queen of Scots. Alas, James was a pious Protestant. For Catholics, he was not only a heretic but an interloper without a sufficient claim for the crown. Disgruntled Catholics spent the rest of his reign trying to murder poor James, most famously trying to blow him up during the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

These attempts at assassination all failed, but made James extremely paranoid. He had a special coat made that was thicker than the length of any sword to stop him being stabbed. He was a firm believer in witches in his early reign, personally supervising the trial of Scottish witches accused of plotting against his wife. But despite the level of opposition to his reign, James firmly believed that he had been chosen by God and was thus infallible. He consequently refused to listen to Parliament if their advice didn’t suit him, and once ruled without it for seven years.

20 Facts About the Tragic Life of Charles I
The Gunpowder Plot Conspirators, who planned to blow James I to smithereeens, engraved by Crispijn de Passe the Elder, Netherlands, 1605. Wikimedia Commons

18. Fear of assassination punctuated Charles’s childhood

So Charles grew up in a thoroughly unsuitable atmosphere of paranoia and grumblings about his father’s autocratic approach to ruling. Imagine being the son of a published demonologist who feared that witches and assassins lurked around every corner yet refused to pacify his enemies. But to make matters worse, Charles was a small and sickly child, and was too fragile to travel to England when James became king. Shortly after he joined his parents in England, Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators (above) were caught just before they could light a fuse to blow James to smithereens.

Thus along with fears for his own health, Charles had to put up with his father’s paranoia and the near-constant presence of armed guards, visual reminders that people wanted his father and his family dead. It is perhaps no coincidence that Charles worked hard to build up his strength. He became a fine horseman, an accomplished archer, and learned how to fence, all regal pursuits with a practical purpose: young Charles had a much better chance of surviving assassination as a result. Still, good thing he wasn’t heir to the throne, eh? That was his strapping, healthy older brother, Henry…

20 Facts About the Tragic Life of Charles I
Henry, Prince of Wales, Charles’s more popular older brother, after Isaac Oliver, London, c.1610. Wikimedia Commons

17. Everyone was disappointed when his more popular older brother died.

Henry Frederick Stuart, Prince of Wales, was born in 1594, and could not have been more different from his younger brother Charles. Henry was a tall and physically imposing young man, outstanding in the kingly pursuits of hunting, hawking, and jousting. Utterly fearless, he made no secret of his fervent Protestantism despite the threat of disenfranchised Catholics trying to kill him. In fact, he had everything that a king needed to be popular. The public adored Henry so much, in fact, that he was better liked than James himself, and many looked forward to the day Henry succeeded the king.

Henry was certainly the role-model older brother par excellence, and Charles tried desperately to emulate him. Tragically, Henry’s life was cut short in 1612 when he succumbed to porphyria or typhoid. He was just 18, and was already involved in trade, politics, and the military. Charles, a fortnight shy of his 12th birthday, was now heir apparent, and unexpectedly had huge shoes to fill. Given the loud public mourning that followed Henry’s death, and Charles’s hero-worshipping of his older brother, he doubtless knew that he was not as suitable a candidate for becoming King of England and Scotland.

20 Facts About the Tragic Life of Charles I
This anonymous portrait of Charles I from the late 17th century or early 18th century shows the king being given his crown by God Himself. Wikimedia Commons

16. Charles believed in the Divine Right of Kings… but not everyone else did.

Although he would have been devastated at Henry’s death, Charles would have been encouraged by his father’s belief in the Divine Right of Kings. This doctrine sees all monarchs as having been chosen by God, and subject to no authority apart from Him. According to this belief, Henry’s death would have been no accident, but a deliberate act of God to make Charles king. As we saw earlier in this list, James’s belief in the Divine Right of Kings meant that he point-blank refused to listen to Parliament or other authorities, and more or less did what he liked.

Encouraged both by the divine intervention that saw him become heir and the education programme James designed for him, Charles embraced the Divine Right of Kings wholeheartedly. This inevitably brought him into conflict with Parliament, who took their authority not from God but the Magna Carta of 1215. Magna Carta enshrined civil liberties, most famously including the right of people not to be imprisoned without trial. It also prevented the king raising taxes without the consent of the people. After putting up with James’s autocratic behaviour for so long, Parliament’s patience had worn very thin by Charles’s reign.

20 Facts About the Tragic Life of Charles I
Henrietta Maria of France, Charles’s wife, painted by Anthony Van Dyck, London, c.1636-38. Wikimedia Commons

15. Charles angered his people by marrying a Catholic.

Another big mistake Charles made was marrying Henrietta Maria (1609-69) in 1625, barely three months into his reign. Not only was Henrietta a Catholic, infuriating every Protestant in the land, but French. England had been at war with France on-and-off since the Norman Conquest of 1066, and so she was not only a heretic for many people – crucially, those in power, since Catholicism was illegal and anyone suspected of practicing it without evidence was ostracised – but a natural enemy of the country itself. And, obviously, Charles bluntly ignored the opposition to the marriage in Parliament, making them even more angry.

At this period, Catholicism was at a low ebb of popularity. Many people were old enough to remember the Catholic Mary I’s reign of terror, and Catholic Spain had tried to invade England in 1588. Fears over the new queen’s bad influence were confirmed when she arrived for her wedding. She was accompanied by 200 French priests and Catholics, and stopped to pray for the Catholic martyrs of Tyburn. Rather than allaying these fears by passing laws against Catholics and making Henrietta convert, Charles blundered again by allowing her to continue practicing and pursued a policy of Catholic tolerance.

20 Facts About the Tragic Life of Charles I
Charles I at the Hunt is one of many portraits of the king taken by the artist Anthony Van Dyck, England, 1635. Wikimedia Commons

14. He was a lavish patron of the arts.

Be warned: believing yourself to have been appointed an infallible ruler by God gives you a massive ego. Charles was a preening peacock of a man who celebrated his God-given rule and greatness by patronising the finest artists in Europe to paint his portrait. Charles was patron to the great Flemish master Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641), and got him to paint around 40 portraits of himself in various poses and 30 of the queen, to say nothing of the many portraits van Dyck produced of the royal children. Even for a king, this was astonishingly decadent behaviour.

It’s no good being elected by God if you don’t have a home to match. After visiting the Spanish Court in 1623, Charles fell in love with art, amassing a vast collection of 1, 760 paintings by Titian, Caravaggio and others over his lifetime and commissioning countless original pieces. But art collecting costs a hell of a lot of money, even if you’re king. Charles’s obsession with fine art meant that he swiftly spent his yearly allowance agreed by Parliament, and when he was forced to ask for more money this inevitably put him into conflict with MPs.

20 Facts About the Tragic Life of Charles I
George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, by Peter Paul Rubens, England, 1625. Wikimedia Commons

13. People were suspicious of his relationship with the Duke of Buckingham, his father’s favorite.

George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham (1592-1628), was James I’s closest advisor, and widely hated. Buckingham was a royal favourite, upon whom James lavished fine clothes, residences, and titles, and naturally there were rumours of a homosexual relationship, which James didn’t help by telling Parliament, ‘you may be sure that I love the Earl of Buckingham more than anyone else’. Beyond the morality of the relationship, Parliament saw Buckingham as a bad influence, criticising his poor diplomatic performance and the wisdom of the advice he gave James. He was also (correctly) suspected of corruption and illegal business practices.

Buckingham had been Charles’s tutor, and the new king ignored all advice by not only keeping him as an advisor but promoting him to Lord Admiral when James died. Buckingham led a number of disastrous military campaigns and vociferously supported the king’s demands for yet more money. Parliament had finally had enough of Buckingham, but when they twice tried to impeach him, the divinely-legitimised Charles responded both times by dissolving Parliament. This contributed to the Petition of Right (see below) being drawn up. Buckingham was stabbed to death at a pub in Portsmouth in 1628 by a disgruntled soldier.

20 Facts About the Tragic Life of Charles I
Charles I with his French riding instructor, M. de St Antoine, depicted by Anthony Van Dyck, England, 1633. WIkimedia Commons

12. Charles simultaneously tolerated Catholics and tried to whip the Church of England into shape, which understandably angered many of his subjects.

Charles’s religious policy was utterly ham-fisted. For whilst he allowed his wife and her retinue to practice Catholicism – formerly an offence punishable by death – he simultaneously attempted to standardise the moderate devotional practices of the Church of England, thus restricting the religious freedom of the majority of his subjects. The changes he proposed were unpopular. Charles was sympathetic to Arminian theology, which many believed was closer to Catholicism than Protestantism and hence a potential threat to the Church of England. All the while, Charles was accused of failing to help Protestant nations at war in Europe whilst supporting Catholic concerns.

There were certain people who felt that the Church of England was already not Protestant enough, and wanted change: the Puritans. The Church of England was something of a compromise to keep both Protestants and Catholics (to a lesser degree) happy, but the Puritans wanted all traces of the old faith eradicated. They also opposed exactly the sort of unchecked royal authority Charles believed in. Charles further angered the Puritans by employing Richard Montagu, a cleric argued against some of their core beliefs, as royal chaplain. Unfortunately for Charles, the Puritans included many prominent and powerful MPs among their number.

20 Facts About the Tragic Life of Charles I
Landscape with Saint George and the Dragon by Peter Paul Rubens depicts Charles as the titular saint, England, c.1630.

11. Charles spent much of his early reign fighting for more money from Parliament.

In the 1620s, England was already involved in the Thirty Years War due to the Stuart family’s obligations to Denmark and Germany, but Charles also needed significant funds to pay for an army to go and support France, his wife’s country, in its conflict with Spain. War is an expensive business, and Charles demanded £700, 000 to pay for his foreign efforts in 1625. Given that they were being asked to sanction money to pay for the support of foreign nations, and an army led by the detested and incompetent Buckingham, Parliament voted to give Charles a mere £112, 000.

How, fumed Charles, could you deny someone elected by God what they asked for? Parliament refused to budge, and placed further strain on Charles’s finances by denying him revenues from trade duties. They saw Charles as a spendthrift who habitually lived beyond his means and fecklessly mismanaged diplomatic obligations to other nations. But Charles, on his side, was equally stubborn, and in 1627 simply gathered ‘forced loans’ to pay for the war effort, without Parliamentary consent. Those who refused to pay the king’s taxes were to be imprisoned without trial. Things were coming to a head…

20 Facts About the Tragic Life of Charles I
The Petition of Right, a document that proved a thorn in Charles’s side, London, 1628. Beaufort County Now

10. In 1628, Parliament passed the Petition of Right, limiting the king’s power and increasing their own. Charles decided to ignore it.

Relations between Charles and Parliament were already fraught by the time he imposed the ‘forced loans’ in 1627. In sum, Charles’s handling of royal spending, religious matters, and continued fostering of Buckingham already meant that Parliament was a noisy place to spend an afternoon if you were the king in the 1620s. But the ‘forced loans’ were the final straw. In direct response, a group of MPs drew up the Petition of Right in 1628. This document prevented the king from imprisoning people without trial, raising taxes without permission, and imposing his royal prerogative in Parliament.

How did Charles respond? Well, he nominally agreed to it, as it was a lot easier to get Parliament to raise money for the wars, albeit with the immortal words: ‘kings are not bound to give account of their actions but to God alone’. Parliament was delighted, but nonetheless Charles did not stick to his word. In his mind, he was deciding between the will of the people and God, whose lieutenant he was. Thus, within a few weeks he re-asserted his right to raise taxes as it pleased him. These actions would come back to haunt him.

20 Facts About the Tragic Life of Charles I
Sir John Finch, Speaker of the Houses of Parliament when Charles closed it down, possibly after Anthony Van Dyck, England, c.1640. National Portrait Gallery

9. In 1629 Charles dissolved parliament and ruled without it for 11 years.

Although relations with parliament were helped by the murder of Buckingham in August 1628, the small matter of raising taxes remained. A stalemate over taxation in the next year’s session meant it achieved absolutely nothing, and Charles adjourned Parliament on 2nd March. Enraged MPs forcibly restrained the Speaker of the House of Commons to prevent the session ending, and read out a list of grievances about religious and financial policies to raucous cheers. Charles responded by imprisoning 9 MPs for their impertinence. Another big mistake: this only served to rally support for Parliament’s cause against the tyrannical crown.

Undeterred by growing cries of disgruntlement at his behaviour, Charles did not call Parliament again for 11 years, a period known as his ‘Personal Rule’ or ‘The Tyranny’. Relying on the advice of only two advisors, Charles levied heavy taxes and continued his policy of enforcing uniformity on the Church of England. This led to yet more MPs being arrested for refusing to pay unsanctioned taxes and inevitably celebrated by almost everyone outside the royal family. Most seriously, the new prayer book he instituted led to riots in Scotland and Charles declaring a ‘bishops’ war’ on the Scottish clergy.

20 Facts About the Tragic Life of Charles I
John Hampden, one of the leaders of Parliament’s opposition to Charles, School of Godfrey Kneller, England, 17th century. Wikimedia Commons


8. When Parliament resumed in 1640, 399 of 493 MPs voted against Charles’s advisors, and lasted for the next 20 years.

The understaffed army Charles sent to enforce religious uniformity in Scotland was forced to retreat and surrender Newcastle, and the humiliated king was forced to recall Parliament in 1640. He needed a new tax to be levied to pay for his efforts against those vicious Scottish churchmen. After its 11 years’ absence, this Parliament was determined not to go anywhere, and it lasted in various forms for the next 20 years, earning itself the nickname ‘the Long Parliament’. It took advantage of the king’s desperation by forcing him to sign the death-warrant of his hated advisor, Thomas Wentworth.

His other advisor, William Laud, was impeached, and there was nothing the money-desperate king could do. 399 of 493 MPs voted against the two advisors and, worst of all, Parliament refused to give Charles any money to fight the Scots. In 1641, Parliament passed a revised version of the 1628 Petition of Right, the Grand Remonstrance. With 200 clauses, the Grand Remonstrance guaranteed that Parliament would meet every three years and could only be dissolved by itself, reduced the king’s power to raise taxes, and prevented him from appointing members of the clergy. Charles was now struggling to keep power.

20 Facts About the Tragic Life of Charles I
Denzil Holles, 1st Baron Holles, was one of the Five Members Charles tried to arrest in 1642, painted by Edward Bower, London, c.1640. Wikimedia Commons

7. In 1642 Charles tried to arrest his 5 greatest enemies, causing an outcry and the English Civil War.

Given his dire financial straits and flimsy grip on power, Charles had no option but to agree to the Grand Remonstrance. However, in 1642 he made a desperate gamble, possibly goaded by Henrietta Maria, who told him ‘to pull these rogues out by the ears or never see my face again’. On January 4, he burst into Parliament demanding that five of his greatest enemies in the Commons be given up to him on the charge of High Treason. Luckily for them, the five members got wind of Charles’s plan, and escaped by boat before he arrived.

Charles had played his hand, and lost. No monarch had ever entered the House of Commons, and in doing so he breached statutes about parliamentary privilege. It seemed that everything Parliament had accused Charles of was correct. Within weeks, armed commoners arrived at Westminster, trying to arrest Henrietta Maria. But like the 5 members, the royal family realised their danger, and fled to Hampton Court, then Greenwich. Civil war was afoot in England once more. Henrietta Maria fled to France via Dover with the children, whilst Charles travelled to Nottingham to rally his supporters to defend his rights in battle.

20 Facts About the Tragic Life of Charles I
Thomas Fairfax, 3rd Lord Fairfax of Cameron, commander of the Parliamentarian Army, engraving after Edward Bower, England, late 18th-early 19th century. National Portrait Gallery

6. The English Civil War was a bloody affair that ended in Oliver Cromwell defeating the king.

As bad a king as Charles was, not everyone wanted him to be removed altogether. After all, England had had a king since the days of the great Anglo-Saxon Athelstan in the 9th century. Generally speaking, the North was Royalist and the South Parliamentarian, but whole families were split on the issue of whether they should support king or Parliament, and the bloody conflict that erupted over the next seven years left a lasting legacy. The first battle was at Edgehill, Warwickshire, in October 1642, and resulted in a rough draw. Parliament however had access to London, ports, and taxes.

We haven’t got space to go into the specifics of the English Civil War here, but the Parliamentarians, or Roundheads, were led by Oliver Cromwell and Thomas Fairfax to victory over the Royalists, or Cavaliers. Charles himself was taken prisoner at Newark in 1647, and the war ground to a temporary halt. He escaped, however, and from his hideout on the Isle of Wight he plotted to invade and retake England. The Battle of Preston in 1648 saw the end of Royalist hopes, and Charles was arrested after negotiations failed at the behest of Cromwell and his radical supporters.

20 Facts About the Tragic Life of Charles I
Charles I is tried for High Treason, England, c.1649. Oliver Cromwell

5. Charles was charged with High Treason, and tried as a commoner.

Despite widespread opposition from the House of Lords and Chief Justices, the so-called Rump Parliament passed a bill to create a special court to charge Charles with treason. 68 Parliamentarians sat in judgement over Charles on January 20, 1649, in Westminster Hall. The charge specifically read that Charles ‘hath traitorously and maliciously levied war against the present Parliament, and the people therein represented… for the advancement and upholding of a personal interest of will, power, and pretended prerogative to himself and his family, against the public interest, common right, liberty, justice, and peace of the people of this nation’.

At the trial, Charles was tried not as King Charles I but simply as ‘Charles Stuart’, his commoner’s name, a symbolically-charged act. Heroically unwavering in his belief in the Divine Right of Kings, Charles treated the whole affair with utter contempt. He refused to remove his hat – a sign of flagrant disrespect – as in the engraving above, and defended himself thus: ‘I would know by what power I am called hither, by what lawful authority?… the king can do no wrong’. It wasn’t an effective defence. He was found guilty, and 58 commissioners signed his death warrant on January 27.

20 Facts About the Tragic Life of Charles I
A German engraving of the execution of Charles I, c.1649. Wikimedia Commons

4. He was beheaded on January 30, 1649.

On January 30, 1649, Charles was led to a scaffold outside the Palace of Whitehall. Ever the showman, he asked for two shirts, because ‘the season is so sharp as probably may make me shake, which some observers may imagine proceeds from fear’. He gave a rousing final speech to the great crowd that had gathered, refusing to give in to the men who had sentenced him to death, stating that he was unafraid of death because of his fervent religious beliefs: ‘I shall go from a corruptible to an incorruptible Crown, where no disturbance can be’.

At two in the afternoon, he was beheaded by a single stroke. His head was lifted to the crowd, but the executioner broke with tradition by not reciting the customary lines, ‘Behold the head of a traitor!’ England had killed its own king. Philip Henry, who witnessed the execution, records that the crowd unleashed a groan ‘as I never heard before and desire I may never hear again’. The terrible significance of this single man’s execution was not lost on the ordinary people, and no one quite knew what was coming next. Charles, meanwhile, was buried at Windsor Castle.

20 Facts About the Tragic Life of Charles I
The famous ‘warts and all’ portrait of Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth, after Samuel Cooper’s original, London, 1656. Wikimedia Commons

3. England was a republic for the next 11 years.

Well, what came next for England was over a decade of being a republic, a period known as the Commonwealth. The Rump Parliament declared that ‘the commons in Parliament assembled, being chosen by and representing the people, have the supreme power in this nation’. That all sounds well and good, but for most people the Commonwealth was a thoroughly miserable time. The Puritans, chief among them Oliver Cromwell, who dominated matters and became Lord Protector in 1653, set about a rigorous campaign of censorship. Churches were smashed, rival religious sects oppressed, and the theatres were closed down altogether.

The Commonwealth really wasn’t a lot of fun: adultery was punishable by death, taverns and brothels were closed, and swearing was banned. And, ironically, Cromwell was guilty of many of the same things as his hated predecessor. Before being named Lord Protector, he marched into Parliament with his army, called the MPs ‘sordid prostitutes… intolerably odious to the whole nation’, and shut it down. He then installed his own carefully-chosen MPs, who elected him Lord Protector, and insisted on being called ‘Your Highness’ and sitting on a throne. Cromwell died in 1658, and everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief.

20 Facts About the Tragic Life of Charles I
Charles II’s Coronation Portrait by John Michael Wright, London, c.1661-62. Wikimedia Commons

2. When Charles’s son took the throne in 1660, he took bloody revenge on his father’s enemies.

Oliver Cromwell was succeeded by his ineffectual son, Richard, in 1658, but he lasted only 8 months before the Rump Parliament was reassembled to end the Lord Protectorate. Realising that the country needed a figurehead of authority, and having no other suitable candidate, it was decided that Charles’s son, also called Charles, should be retrieved from exile and crowned king. He came back to great rejoicing in 1660. Charles II was a decadent and flamboyant man, and he set about restoring all the fun (and wild royal expenditure) to England. Under his rule, the English theatre blossomed again.

Though he was something of a playboy, Charles II hadn’t forgotten what happened to his father. He went to the extreme measure of having Oliver Cromwell, Henry Ireton (general of the Parliamentarian army and Cromwell’s son-in-law), and John Bradshaw (President of the High Court of Justice during Charles I’s trial), exhumed, tried for treason and regicide (king-killing), and hanged. This took place on the 12th anniversary of the execution of Charles I, and the three bodies were then beheaded and flung in an unmarked pit. Their heads were left on spikes in Westminster Hall as a warning to MPs. Touché.

20 Facts About the Tragic Life of Charles I
The waistcoat believed to have been worn by Charles I on the scaffold, taken from his body as a relic. WordPress

1. Staunch monarchists dismembered Charles’s body to keep as relics.

Being tried and executed by his own people made Charles I a royal martyr. At the scaffold in 1649, people in the front row fought their way past Parliamentarian soldiers to dip their handkerchiefs in the king’s royal blood, to keep as a sacred memento. Someone even swiped the handkerchief the king was carrying with him at the time of his death, and locks of his hair were cut off before anyone could intervene. Either by merit of some well-placed bribes or simple grave-robbing, other pieces of Charles’s clothing also surfaced, including the tunic he wore at Whitehall (above).

Most grisly of all is a vertebra from Charles’s neck, uncovered in 1813 by George IV, the Prince Regent. The coffin was found by mistake in the vaults of St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, and the Prince Regent decided that he and his friends might as well have a look inside. They examined the bones, then had the coffin re-soldered. But it transpired (rather suspiciously) that the very neck vertebra severed by the executioner’s axe had not been re-interred! George would not allow the coffin to be opened again, and presented the grim relic to his friend, Sir Henry Halford.


Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

Carlton, Charles. Charles I: The Personal Monarch. London: Routledge, 1995.

Coward, Barry. The Stuart Age: England, 1603-1714. London: Longman, 1994.

Cust, Richard. The English Civil War. London: Arnold, 1997.

Gregg, Pauline. King Charles I. London: Dent, 1981.

Hutton, Ronald. Charles II: King of England, Scotland, and Ireland. Oxford: Clarendon, 1989.

Jenkins, Simon. A Short History of England. London: Profile, 2011.

Kenyon, J.P. Stuart England. London: Penguin, 1978.

Lee, Christopher. This Sceptred Isle 55BC-1901. London: BBC Books, 1997.

Russell, Conrad. The Causes of the English Civil War. Oxford: Clarendon, 1990.