Charles I becomes King of England
On Sunday March 27 King James , wearied by a series of illnesses and attacks, died while staying at Theobalds House near Cheshunt. His son Charles, Prince of Wales, was present at the house during his father's final illness.
In spite of James's poor health - he was becoming senile, had suffered a major stroke, had gout, and at the end was possibly finished off by dysentery - it was rumoured in some quarters that Buckingham, his favourite and almost certainly his lover, had poisoned him to hasten the succession of Charles , though this is highly unlikely to be true.
Whether Buckingham, just eight years older than the new king, was also Charles's lover is more doubtful, but the pair had become exceedingly close during what amounted to a regency during the last years of James's reign, and had been on a dashing visit to Spain to assess a potential marriage for Charles, a marriage that was ruled out by political considerations having been made unlikely by Buckingham's antics in Madrid. It was Buckingham who engineered Charles's future marriage to Henrietta Maria of France, a move of crashing political ineptitude, beginning the alienation of the very high church king from his largely Protestant people at the outset of his reign.
The new King was just 25, a seemingly intelligent young man who was inheriting a settled kingdom with a relatively content populace enjoying the fruits of peace - low demands on their purses. Charles immediately began a series of idiotic military adventures, bewitched by the romance of conquest rather than aware of its cost. The dramas of von Mansfeld's expedition to recover the Palatinate, and of the raid on Cadiz, were farcical rather than heroic, however. The former fell apart in diseased disorder, the latter in drunken debauchery. Not an auspicious beginning.
But it was characteristic of the poor judgement shown by Charles so often in his reign, a failing that would see the country ravaged by a civil war that could surely have been avoided, might have been won in its early stages, and with political sense could have been settled several times. Eventually Charles would lose his crown and the head beneath it through that poor judgement.
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