King Charles III, who was automatically crowned after the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, is the third British monarch to share the name. The two forebearers of the name have experienced two remarkably different destinies.
Who was Charles I?
Charles I’s reign resulted in a bloody civil war and the extinction of the royal family, making him the only British monarch to be put to death.
In 1625, Charles, a member of the House of Stuart, assumed control of England, Scotland, and Ireland.
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Due to his Roman Catholic beliefs and conviction in the divine prerogative of monarchs, he had a lot of enemies. Both subjects and parliamentarians accused him of being a dictator.
His powers were continuously being curbed by Parliament, which put it at odds with the crown and set the stage for the outbreak of civil war in 1642.
Charles was defeated in 1645, but he refused to submit to his captors’ demands for a constitutional monarchy. As a result, he was tried for high treason in 1649, found guilty, and put to death.
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Before being led to the execution scaffold outside London’s Banqueting House, Charles is renowned for asking for two shirts so he wouldn’t shiver in the chilly weather.
He remarked, “The season is so sharp as probably may make me shake, which some observers may imagine proceeds from fear. I would have no such imputation.”
Charles was beheaded in one stroke after a signal was made to the cloaked executioner, whose identity is still unknown.
As a souvenir, some spectators dipped their handkerchiefs in his blood.
With Oliver Cromwell serving as Lord Protector, the monarchy was overthrown and England was made a republic.
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Who was Charles II?
The future King Charles II fought alongside his father throughout the English Civil War, but as it became evident that defeat was certain, he left England and settled in The Hague in 1649.
After his father’s execution, the monarchy was abolished in England, but on January 1, 1651, Charles was crowned king of Scotland.
Charles and his allies invaded England out of fear of a southern assault by the English republican armies led by Cromwell.
Charles lost at the Battle of Worcester in west-central England and famously hid in an oak tree to avoid capture.
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He was able to elude the law for six weeks while making his way to France.
When Cromwell passed away in 1658, there was a period of civil and military upheaval that led to Charles being asked to reign again in 1660.
The formidable monarch, whose thick black curls and stylish moustache make him instantly recognisable in paintings, overturned many of the nation’s puritanical laws and developed a reputation as a loving renegade.
According to historian Antonia Fraser, he was “witty and kind, grateful, generous, tolerant, and essentially lovable.”
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During his reign, colonialism and trade expanded in India, the East Indies, and America. In addition, he had to deal with the Black Death Plague in 1665 and the Great Fire of London a year later, two extremely serious disasters.
He suffered a fit on February 2, 1685, and four days later, at the age of 54, he passed away, either as a result of or in spite of a series of treatments that included bloodletting, purging, and cupping.