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King Charles I Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: David Wilson

David has taught college history and holds an MA in history.

King Charles I is remembered as a ruler who was so unpopular that England fought a war to be able to be rid of him. In this lesson, learn about the decisions he made and their consequences for himself and his country.

Not Always Good to Be King

What was the last movie you saw about an evil king (or queen) and the people who stood up to that awful ruler? You don't have to go far to find a movie or TV show where the good guy straps on armor and a sword to help free the country, but real life is always more complicated. One of the most unpopular kings in English history, Charles I, is remembered as a bad king, but lots of people in England thought he should stay king. About 400 years ago, his decisions led to the English Civil War, and eventually to Charles' death.

Painting of King Charles I of England
Charles I

God's On My Side

Why do kings get to be kings? While most people agree that we need someone in charge, not everyone agrees on who that should be. Charles ruled at a time in European history when kings and queens believed that they could do what they wanted, when they wanted, for whatever reason they wanted, and nobody could tell them no. This was called absolute monarchy (a monarchy means a nation ruled by a monarch - a king or queen). Charles, like many other kings of the time, believed in an idea called the divine right of kings, which stated that because God, representing the divine, chose kings, then only God could tell a king not to do something.

Charles I talking with the people in his kingdom
Charles with English subjects

When Charles came onto the throne of England in 1625, he followed this belief and made a lot of people unhappy. He liked spending money on everything from artwork to music to wars. Eventually, he found he didn't have much more money to spend, meaning that he had to go to Parliament, England's government, to get more. However, Charles and Parliament disliked each other, especially when Charles decided he'd had enough and told Parliament three different times to go home so he could do the job by himself. Worse still, Charles married a Catholic queen at a time when distrust of Catholics was very high.

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