Charles was the 2nd son of James VI of Scotland (James 1 of England) and Anne of Denmark. He was born in Dunfermline, Scotland, and became heir to the throne on the death of his brother Henry in 1612. His father favoured marriage to the Spanish infanta Maria Anna, but Parliament was hostile to Spain and in 1625 he married Henrietta Maria, daughter of Henry IV of France. Their children included Charles and James (who became Charles II and James II), and Mary who married William II of Orange and was the mother of William III.

When Charles I succeeded his father in 1625, friction with Parliament began at once. Charles believed in his divine right as king and struggled to control Parliament who resented his attempts at absolute rule. One of his first acts was to dissolve parliament in 1625, and again in 1626 after attempts to impeach the Duke of Buckingham over war against Spain and support of the French Huguenots. Charles forced an unpopular ‘Ship Money’ tax to raise funds without the consent of Parliament. In 1628 Charles was presented with the Petition of Right a declaration of the “rights and liberties of the subject", which he reluctantly agreed to. However, in 1629 he dissolved Parliament again, imprisoned its leaders and ruled without a Parliament from 1629 to 1640. His advisers Earl Strafford and Archbishop Laud persecuted the Puritans, and provoked the Presbyterian Scots Covenanters to revolt when Laud attempted to introduce the English Book of Common Prayer.

The Short Parliament, which met April 1640, refused to grant money until grievances were redressed, and was dissolved after just 3 weeks. The Scots then advanced into England and forced their own terms on Charles. The Long Parliament assembled under in November 1640 under John Pym, passed an Act that prevented it from being dissolved without its own consent. Laud and other ministers were imprisoned, and Strafford condemned to death. There was now direct confrontation between Charles and Parliament. After the failure of his attempt to arrest five parliamentary leaders on 4 January 1642, Charles, confident that he had substantial support among those who believed that Parliament was becoming too Puritanical and zealous, withdrew from London, and on 22 August declared war on Parliament by raising his standard at Nottingham and beginning the English Civil War of 1642 to 1648.

The Battle of Edgehill, Warwickshire, in October 1642 between Royalist forces and Parliamentary forces favoured the Royalists but the outcome was inconclusive. The war continued indecisively through 1643 and 1644. Charles's defeat at the Battle of Naseby, near Leicester, in June 1645 by Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army ended all hopes of Royalist victory. In April 1646 Charles escaped the Siege of Oxford and surrendered at Newark, Nottinghamshire, to the Scots, who handed him over to Parliament in January 1647. In June the Cromwell’s army seized him and carried him off to Hampton Court palace, near London. While the army leaders strove to find a settlement, Charles secretly intrigued for a Scottish invasion. In November he escaped, but was recaptured and held at Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight. A Scottish invasion followed in 1648, but was shattered by Cromwell at Preston, Lancashire. In January 1649 the House of Commons set up a high court of justice, which tried Charles and condemned him to death. He was beheaded on 30 January 1649 in front of the Banqueting House in Whitehall, London. There followed a period known as the English Commonwealth ruled by Cromwell through parliament (Royal Family History,