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The new British monarch bears the name of a predecessor who was executed and another who was exiled.
King Charles III, 73, formerly Prince Charles, chose to keep his name following the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, on Thursday. He is the first monarch named Charles since the 1600s, and the oldest person to ascend the throne in history. In a pre-recorded speech Friday, the new king vowed his life to service and invoked his mother.
“As The Queen herself did with such unswerving devotion, I too now solemnly pledge myself, throughout the remaining time God grants me, to uphold the Constitutional principles at the heart of our nation,” said King Charles III.
Who Was King Charles I?
King Charles I, born November 19, 1600, ruled England for more than two decades beginning in 1625. A firm believer in divine right — the idea that the monarch’s right to rule comes directly from God — Charles I didn’t summon parliament for years, starting an era that was known as his “Personal Rule.”
But after a series of controversial political and religious policies, a civil war broke out that would ultimately kill more than 3% of the population. King Charles I would be accused of treason and executed in 1649.
His trial and execution are among the most controversial moments in British history. Some see it as a lawless reprisal against a political opponent, while others consider it a watershed moment for the rule of law and the authority of Parliament. Undoubtedly the sequence of events was a key milestone in the decline of the British monarchy and the relative rise of Parliament, eventually leading to the symbolic and largely neutered royals of the modern era.
His Son’s Short Reign
Charles I’s son, King Charles II, was formally crowned days after his father’s death. Born May 29, 1630, Charles II was caught up in a complex web of civil wars and forced into exile in 1651. He would spend the next nine years in France, before he was invited back to England and restored to the throne after the death of Oliver Cromwell, the de-facto leader during the period without a king.
For legal purposes, Charles II was considered to have been the rightful monarch the entire time and the brief republican escapade was papered over as an odd detour in an unbroken succession of monarchs.
Charles II had his own controversies surrounding Parliament and the Church. But he never went as far as his father, and he is perhaps best remembered as “The Merry Monarch” and for the reported hedonism and extravagance of his court. (He fathered at least 12 children illegitimately.)
When Charles II died in 1685, he left behind no legal heirs, passing the throne instead to his brother James.