Charles, the grandson of Mary, Queen of Scots, was born during Elizabeth’s reign and came to the throne at the young age of 24. He believed firmly in the divine right of kings and thought kings were only answerable to God. Parliament thought rather differently, and his reign was fraught with arguments. After years of strained relations and arguments with the Commons, the English Civil War began, in 1642.
The war dragged on for years, pitting Parliament against the Royalists, and finally Charles was placed under arrest. Even then, he continued to encourage the Royalists, so in 1649 the House of Commons passed an Act creating a court for the king’s trial. The court consisted of 135 commissioners, only 68 of whom ever sat in judgment, and the prosecution was led by Solicitor General John Cooke. The trial began on January 20, 1649 with the king refusing to enter a plea, claiming the court had no jurisdiction over a monarch. Nevertheless, the trial proceeded, and he was found guilty a week later and sentenced to death. Fifty-nine of the commissioners signed the death warrant. Many of them were thrown in prison or executed for treason during the Restoration in 1660. Charles was beheaded on January 30, on a specially constructed scaffold outside the Banqueting House at Whitehall. Allegedly, his last words were: “I shall go from a corruptible to an incorruptible Crown, where no disturbance can be.”