Kings of England



the Dane, king of England, was the son and successor of Sweyn, king of Denmark, with whom he invaded England in 1013. The next year, on the death of Sweyn, he was chosen king by the fleet. He contested the kingdom with Edmund II. (Ironside), and on his death became sole king, and to strengthen his title married Emma, widow of Ethelred II. His rule, at first severe; was afterwards mild and just. He several times visited Denmark; made a pilgrimage to Rome in 1027; founded or restored religious houses; and established just laws. Died, 1035.

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Charles I.,

king of England, was born at Dunfermline, in Scotland, in the year 1600. He was the third son of James VI. of Scotland and I. of England, by Anne, daughter of the King of Denmark; and upon the death of Prince Henry, his elder brother, in 1612, was created Prince of Wales. A negotiation having been long carried on for the marriage of Charles with the Infanta of Spain, he went in 1623, attended by the profligate minister Buckingham, to conclude it in person. But the affair came to an end. On the death of his father, in 1625, he ascended the throne, his kingdom being engaged in war with Spain, and the people much embittered against his friend and minister, Buckingham. Immediately after his accession Charles married the Princess Henrietta Maria of France, whose character and influence undoubtedly augmented the troubles and evils of the time.

It unfortunately happened for Charles I. that he had as high a notion of the royal prerogative as either his father or Elizabeth, while he had to deal with an entirely different state of public opinion. From the very first, therefore, he found himself in sharp collision with his subjects; his aim being to rule as an absolute monarch, to hold the purse and the army, and do as he liked with them and their aim being to prevent all that. Want of supplies on his part, calling of parliaments to grant them, refusal of supplies and demand of redress of grievances and more just administration, dissolution of parliaments government without them, and all kinds of illegal and tyrannous measures, no man's life or property being secure, --such are the main elements of the conflict which filled up the years preceding the outbreak of actual war. The parliament impeached Buckingham, and the king supported him; war with France was declared, against the popular wish, because Buckingham so willed it; and while the parliament was firm in its resistance, the king was obstinate and impolitic in his enforcement and extension of his prerogative.

The third parliament, called in 1628, passed the famous Petition of Right, to which the king most reluctantly and indeed insincerely gave his ascent. After the murder of Buckingham the chief advisers and willing instruments of the king were Laud, then bishop of London, and Sir Thomas Wentworth, afterwards Earl of Strafford. Ship money was levied, and the legality of it contested by Hampden. The Star Chamber was active, unwearied in its merciless prosecutions, edicts, and atrocious sentences. In November 1640 the memorable Long Parliament met, and at once secured itself against dissolution except by its own consent. The struggle went on, and at length war was proclaimed, by the king setting up his standard at Nottingham, in August 1642. The first battle between the king's forces and the parliamentary army was at Edge-hill, in which neither party had much to boast of. For some time, however, the royalists were generally successful ; but the battles of Marston Moor, Newbury, and Naseby were all signally unfavourable to the royal cause. Indeed, after the defeat at Naseby, the king was so powerless that he took the resolution of throwing himself upon the good feeling of the Scottish army, then lying before Newark and by that army he was basely sold, and delivered into the hands of the parliament.

All attempts to treat between the king and the parliament failed, chiefly from the evident insincerity of the king. It was impossible to rely on his word. For a time he was treated with much outward respect, but he found means to make his escape from Hampton Court. On arriving on the coast, with the intention of quitting the kingdom, he could not obtain a vessel to go abroad, but crossed over to the Isle of Wight, where the governor, Hammond, confined him in Carisbrook Castle. While there, negotiations were again carried on between him and the parliament, but unsuccessfully. In December 1648 the House of Commons was 'purged' by Col. Pride, the members left forming the 'Rump.' It was then resolved by the Commons that the king should he tried as guilty of treason in making war on his parliament, and a special High Court of Justice was constituted for the occasion. The trial took place in Westminster Hall, in January 1649. The king was condemned to death, and on the 30th of January beheaded at Whitehall; his last word to bishop Juxon being a charge to him to admonish Prince Charles to forgive his father's murderers.

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Charles II.,

king of England, eldest son of Charles I. and his queen Henrietta Maria, was born at St. James's, on the 29th of May, 1630. He was present at the battle of Edge-hill, and had afterwards the nominal command of the royal forces in the west. He was living as a refugee at the Hague when the sentence on his father was carried into execution. He, nevertheless assumed the regal title, and finding that the Scots had proclaimed him, he left the Hague for Scotland, where he arrived in June 1650, and soon after took the covenant. The great victory of Cromwell over the Scots at Dunbar was won September 3rd; but, nevertheless, on January 1, 1651, Charles was crowned at Scone. Cromwell marched towards Scotland to give him battle, and Charles took the spirited course of passing by forced marches into England. Cromwell, however, whose force was superior, discovering the manoeuvre, retrograded in pursuit, and the royal army was over-taken at Worcester, and utterly routed (September 3,1631).

After difficulties and escapes which have rather the air of romance than of fact, Charles escaped to France, where he resided for some years, keeping up the mimicry of a court, but frequently reduced to extreme distress. The death of Cromwell, the general discontent of the people, and the policy of General Monk, restored Charles to his crown in May 1660; and he reigned with a power far greater than that for aiming at which his father had been put to death. Untaught by adversity, he was luxurious, selfish, and indolent. The English Nonconformists were treated with jealous rigour, and the Scottish Covenanters were shot and sabred without compunction. And, perhaps, Charles's reply to some complaints made to him of Lauderdale's cruelty in Scotland, will give quite as full a clue to his kingly character as can he required :- 'I perceive,' said Charles, 'that Lauderdale has been guilty of many bad things against the people of Scotland; but I cannot find that he has acted against my interest.'

During this reign the capital was visited by heavy calamities the plague in 1665, and the fire of London in the following year; the Dutch sailed up the Thames and Medway in 1667; while the Popish, Meal-Tub, and Rye House plots were made pretexts for bringing some eminent persons, who were obnoxious to the court, to an ignominious death. Among the most memorable political events of this period were the passing of the Act of Uniformity, and the consequent ejection of the Nonconformist ministers from their livings; the Conventicle, Five Mile, Corporation and Test Acts; the abolition of feudal tenures, and the securing of personal freedom by the Habeas Corpus Act; the triple alliance against France; the formation of the 'Cabal' ministry; the closing of the Exchequer; the declaration of indulgence ; the introduction and rejection of the Exclusion Bill; and the prosecutions and executions of Lord Stafford, Lord William Russell, and Algernon Sidney. Charles married, in 1662, Catherine of Braganza, but had no children by her, and treated her with shameful neglect and insult, giving himself up to a profligate life and the sway of his successive mistresses. He had many illegitimate children, and among them James, Duke of Monmouth. He died in the Romish communion, February 6, 1685, and was buried at Westminster.

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The above information was gleaned from various sources and then put together by Colin Hinson ©1996.

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