On the night of 9th February 1649 Charles I was buried in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. The commission set up to try the monarch refused permission for him to be buried in Westminster Abbey so he was laid to rest in the Henry VIII vault. His son, the future Charles II planned a massive mausoleum in Hyde Park. This never saw the light of day.
Back in March 1625 when Charles I succeeded to the throne these future events were unimaginable even to most of the men who signed his eventual death warrant. However Charles’ unshakeable belief in the Divine Right of Kings soon brought him into conflict with his Parliament. The raising of taxes, many of them old and obscure, and his marriage to the Roman Catholic Henrietta Maria only further increased the hatred and anger that was directed towards him. Ship tax for example, traditionally paid in times of war for the defence of the coastline was now to be paid all the time. One year later, in 1643, he went further and demanded this same tax from people living inland.
Coupled with this was his stance on religion. Not only had he married Henrietta Maria he was also turning the churches back into “Catholic Shrines” again by decorating them in an elaborate way. Along with the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud, he also introduced a new prayer book. To further exacerbate matters he demanded that this same prayer book be introduced in Scotland. The Scots were more anti-Catholic than the English. This caused a riot. Charles’ army was defeated and he had to pay the Scots off until the matter was decided.
To pay for this army Charles had to recall Parliament in 1640. For 11 years Parliament had not met. (The 11 Years’ Tyranny) Thus when they met they were in no mood to give Charles what he wanted and he tried to dissolve Parliament again after they gave him a list of demands called the Grand Remonstrance in November 1641. The following January Charles burst into the chamber to arrest the leading five M.P.s, against the rights and freedoms of the Commons. The M.P.s had been tipped off and had fled. The Speaker of the House, William Lenthall, replied to Charles’ demand for information as to their whereabouts, “I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as this house is pleased to direct me whose servant I am here.”
In June of that year Parliament passed a new set of demands called the 19 Propositions. This curtailed the power of the King further and would increase the control of Parliament. This divided the Commons but also had the effect of entrenching the views of both sides. Both Parliament and the King began to gather armies and war became inevitable. On 22nd August 1642 the King raised his standard at Nottingham and the first battle took place at Edgehill on 23rd October.
Just under 7 years later on a cold January day in 1649, wearing two shirts to avoid shivering, he said to the crowd from the scaffold set up outside the Banqueting Hall in Whitehall, “the liberty and freedom of the people consists in having a government. It is not their having a share in the government…A subject and a sovereign are clean different things…I shall go from a corruptible to an incorruptible Crown, where no disturbance can be.” Just after 2pm he was dead, executed with one blow.