The Personal Rule of Charles I


Charles I: Comments

"I shall not trouble you with long words. It is not my fashion"

He was a man of action and was not 'all talk'

"I mean to be obeyed"

He has a large fixation on himself being the total leading authority

"...that was a rule he had set to himself which he resolved not to alter"

He has his own personal principles that he stuck to, showing he was strong minded and stubborn

"I cannot defend a bad nor yield in a good cause"

Headstrong and hatred of injustice

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Charles I: Conrad Russell (A summary)

  • Charles was shrewd, not stupid
  • Charles had a temperamental (not a constitutional) arbitariness
  • Charles kept out of the news until 1621, when he had been heir for 9 years - clearly lacking something!
  • His political method involved discovering what conscience demnanded it and then asserting it
  • 'He never accepted that the political process demanded bargaining and concession'
  • Charles tended to say 'never' and then give in afterwards
  • Charles had an 'obsessive concern about his subjects' loyalty' dating from the early years of his reign
  • Charles would stake his authority where wiser kings kept it in reserve (often over insignificant matters)

"I find civil war without him almost impossible to imagine"

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Charles I: Coward, Smith & Young

Charles' lack of self-confidence led him to define the many grey areas which existed within the constitution and the Church

He did not appear to know the meaning of the word compromise and often adopted extreme positions

When he encountered criticism, he interpreted it as disloyalty

He expected his commands to be acted upon without question, he did not feel the need to explain his actions of justify his demands

Charles' theoretical claims regarding the royal prerogative were no more extravagant than his father's. But he used those claims to justift more outrageous actions, and he failed to couple those actions with convinving reassurances about his subjects' liberties and property

He was unapproachable and uncommunicative

This self-righteousness also blinded him to the sincere beliefs of others, and led him to assume that his critics acted from base and treacherous motives

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Charles I: John Miller

He was the most important royal patron of the arts since Henry VIII

He had a strong sense of honour and conscience, which led him to do what he regarded as right

Charles also became a devoted husband...once Buckingham was dead, Charles fell in love with Henrietta Maria and she with him

His marriage to Henrietta Maria did not start well, she made little secret of her contempt for the English or her devotion to Catholicism

Theirs was a large and happy family, without the slightest whiff of scandal

In Charles' universe, everything was wrong or right - there were no shades of grey

In his mental world, kings ruled and subjects obeyed

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Charles I: Richard Cust

Charles disliked his father's willingness to swallow his pride in the interests of a quiet life

James is depicted as a ruler who liked to operate by debate, negotiation, while his son preferred visual symbolism and display, and sought to persuade his subjects to conform to ideal patterns of behaviour

Charles found it very hard to foresee reactions to his decisions or gauge their impact on others

He gained considerable self-confidence as his reign went on

Charles could be an effective and eloquent public speaker and impressed people

Ill-health, lack of parental affection and his father's determination to keep him on the sidelines had a profound effect on Charles' character

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Charles I: Ian Gentles

If there had not been some competence and kingly charisma, Charles would not have commanded the loyalty of a sizable proportion of the nobility and commoners in his kingdom, and there would have been no civil war. Charles needed followers.

It was his strengths as well as his weaknesses that made civil war possible in all 3 of his kingdoms

He was subtle, a responsive tactician, had an ability to think ahead, consciencious, dignified, was an inspiring in both speech and on paper and was a fairly able military commander

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Charles I: Johnathan Scott

"Mechanical Failure or Pilot Error?"

The easiest and cheapest way to explain a failure is to blame it on pilot error.

It is easy to blame Charles' failures

It was an insufficientcy of parliamentary supply - parliament not voting enough money

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Charles I: Ronald Hutton

A more positive view of Charles?

He did not permit a single execution in any of his 3 kingdoms

He threatened people but did not kill

He did not burn anyone to death for their religious beliefs

The execution of people accused of witchcraft decreased considerably

His ideals, expressed through personal rule, are not particularly offensive to the modern mind

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Court & Ruling Style: His Court & Image

In 1619, Charles inherited his mother's art collection

It was in Spain that his taste in painting was formed

Charles was 23 when he went to Madrid and this is when his personality was formed - he  found a style of rule which suited him and he was determined to make this his model

Charles had a preference for ceremonial decorum and visual representation over discourse and debate and this goes straight to the core of his personality

The conenction between personal values and public image is nowhere better illustrated than in the Caroline court. Subjects viewed news media coverage of the court as a glass through through which the sovereign is revealed

By the nature of his court the king set an example 'to teach and instruct the people by his virtues'

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Court & Ruling Style: Control of Policy

  • Charles was in charge in almost every area of government and decision making
  • He was a diligent administrator
  • "a royal swot" - Kevin Sharpe
  • Read state papers carefully and thoughtfully
  • He dominated decision-making by setting the agenda for the privy council etc.
  • Final decisions about war and peace were the king's own

The exception to this picture of kingly control is the government of the church (William Laud)

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Court & Ruling Style: Managerial Skills

He lacked many of the personal qualities needed in an age when so much depended on a monarch's personal relationships

Charles was not shrewd in the art of management

He was never a confident judge of human character - he tended to either go over board in his affection for those he felt were serving him loyally, or form strong dislikes which were almost impossible to shake

His strong sense of loyalty helped to limit the extent of faction fighting at court

His anxiety about the loyalty of people led him into continually devising ways of testing that loyalty. Much of the time he treated grants of supply as just such tests

Charles' insistence that the whole basis of trust was at stake could push those who were reluctant to pay into direct confrontation with the crown

He had an unwillingness to bargain and negotiate - he tried to bludgeon his way through by directly invoking his personal authority

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