King Charles

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There have been two generally recognized British monarchs called King Charles, so far (up to 2010). There have also been ten kings of France with that name, fifteen in Sweden, a large number of King Charleses in other countries - Naples, Hungary, Bohemia, Spain, Romania and Portugal, for example. wikipedia has a list at [[1]].

Charles I

Born 1600; succeeded his father James VI and I in 1625; married Henrietta Maria of France 1625; executed 1649; replaced by the Commonwealth.

Charles I, remembered by royalists as 'King and Martyr' (and the only person to have been canonized by the Church of England since the Reformation, by Parliament in 1660; he was removed from the Calendar in 1894), as Saint Charles, King and Martyr, was the third child of James VI and I and Anne of Denmark. His brother Henry Fredrick, Prince of Wales, was heir apparent till his death in 1612, aged 18. From then, Charles was educated for kingship. At this time he began his friendship with George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, who accompanied him to Spain when he wooed the Infanta (Princess) Maria. (The wooing failed, partly for political reasons.) Charles had to a marked degree the Stuart belief in the 'divine right of kings'. On these grounds, he ruled without Parliament, which had opposed some of his decisions, for the 11 years of Personal Rule from 1629 to 1640. When new elections were held which produced a Parliament which did not grant him the funds he needed, he dissolved it ('The Short Parliament') after three weeks. It was this, in large part, that led to the Civil War, which ended with his execution in Whitehall in 1649. Charles I was a great collector of art, laying the basis of the Royal Collection.
Charles II

Born 1630; crowned, at the Restoration of the monarchy after the Commonwealth, in 1660; married Catherine of Braganza 1662; died 1685, succeeded by James II (and VII).

During the Civil War, Charles first took an independent part at the age of 15, in the West, and little of weight until his father's execution, when he was proclaimed King in Scotland (1649), and campaigned until the invading Scottish army was defeated by Cromwell at the battle of Worcester (1651). Charles endured exile for some nine years during the Commonwealth (1649-1660), after which he famously escaped by hiding in an oak tree. After the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, he appears to have been indolent and indecisive politically, preferring the arts and debauchery for which 'The Merry Monarch' is famed. He was the King who gave his patronage to the Royal Society, one of the oldest, if not the oldest, organization for the development of scientific knowledge in the western world. He followed his father's interest in collecting paintings. Although he left at least 11 illegitimate children, he had no heir.

One of his courtiers wrote an epitaph for him:

Here lies a great and mighty king
Whose promise none relies on;
He never said a foolish thing,
Nor ever did a wise one.
(John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester 'The King's Epitaph', cited Lend Me Your Ears:: Oxford Dictionary of Political Quotations, edited by Antony Jay; 2010)
To which Charles replied “That is true, for my words are my own, but my actions are those of my ministers.”


Here lies our sovereign lord the king,
Whose word no man relies on;
He never says a foolish thing,
Nor ever does a wise one.
(John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester: Written on the Bedchamber Door of Charles II, as quoted in The Book of Days : A Miscellany of Popular Antiquities (1832) by Robert Chambers, Viol. II, July 26, p. 126, cited Wikipedia.
Charles Edward

Born 1720; succeeded his father as the Jacobite claimant to the throne in 1766 as 'Charles III' (to his opponents, 'the Young Pretender'); married Louisa, princess of Stolberg-Gedern (1752-1824) in 1772; died 1788. Charles Edward is also known as 'the Young Chevalier', mostly nowadays in the song 'Charlie is my Darling'. Succeeded, as claimant, by his brother, Henry, the Cardinal Duke of York of England.

The 'Young Pretender', one of the romantic figures in British history, was the grandson of James II. From his childhood, he showed charm and accomplishments, and prepared himself for war; although he seems to have been wilful, and lacking in discipline. As his father became more and more reclusive (his mother died in 1735, estranged from his father), Charles became the figurehead of the Jacobite cause. The central event of his life was the 'Forty-Five', or the second Jacobite Rising of 1745-6. In August 1745, he landed at Moidart with seven men. Raising an army from the highlands, he took virtual control of Scotland and invaded England, getting as far as Derby. With very few recruits in England, although the Hanoverian government was panicking in London, the Jacobite army retreated to Scotland, where in 1746 the government army commanded by the Duke of Cumberland defeated the Jacobites at the Battle of Culloden. 'Bonnie Prince Charlie' became a fugitive (celebrated in many songs), and, disguised as Flora MacDonald's maid 'Betty Burke', escaped to France. In exile, he became "gradually more depressed, drunken, and abusive" (ODNB), and died as such, as may be seen in his portrait aged about 65 by Hugh Douglas Hamilton in the National Portrait Gallery ([[2]]).