Charles the first was born in the palace buildings in Dunfermline, which is now a tourist attraction in Scotland. Charles was very sickly as a child and when his family were moving to London he didn’t go with them because they thought he wouldn’t survive the journey. He couldn’t just order an Uber or a plane, it took a very long time. His brother was being primed for taking over as king, and he was pretty much the opposite of him. He was a healthy, fit, extroverted guy but unfortunately, he died of a disease called typhoid fever and then Charles as the second male of the family, artistic, introverted Charles succeeded his father as heir to the English, Irish and Scottish thrones in 1625.
The Duke of Buckingham became Charles’s advisor but he was hated among the common people and the Parliament because he just led the king from one disaster to the next. He kept getting him to involve in different wars. Charles believed in the Divine Right of Kings which means that he had control over everything so when the Parliament denied him more funds to go to war he was furious and decided to dissolve the Parliament for the first time, which means that he fired everyone in hopes to reduce the number of opponents that returned to the House of Commons when he opened up the parliament again.
Let’s look at it this way, have you ever played a game and didn’t get off to a great start, so then you’re like, okay, I’ll just restart the game and hopefully will get a better run at it next time. That’s basically what Charles did IRL. When he eventually did get an army of 6,000 men together, en route to La Rochelle, all the ladders they brought weren’t big enough to get over the walls. He came back to England and everyone was furious.
Charles I introduced his nation to the works of foreign art masters and their contemporaries, profoundly changing how the English appreciated art. His father James instilled a big love for the arts but it was his trip taken when he was 22 years old (a prince at the time) that truly opened his eyes to the splendours of collecting. Charles arrived in Madrid in 1623, with George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham under the alias Thomas and John Smith. They were on a secret mission to secure a marriage between Charles and the Catholic Spanish Infanta, Maria Anna. This marriage had been in negotiations for almost a decade, and Charles had grown frustrated with the lack of progress. He was twenty-two years old and wanted to strike out for himself, independent of his father and win Maria Anna directly, despite growing anti-Catholic and Spanish feeling in England. Charles and Buckingham arrived in Madrid in March, surprising Philip IV who had not received word they were coming. But they were welcomed, and the two Englishmen enjoyed the festivities of the Spanish court. While he was in Spain, Charles saw the glories of its royal art collection. He came home without a bride, but with paintings by Titian and Veronese, and a burning ambition to acquire a great art collection of his own. He later married Henrietta Maria of France.
When Charles became King in 1625, he set about assembling a collection to rival the one he’d seen in Spain. He spent a huge amount of money and It had to be funded, and signed off by parliament, and they weren’t too keen because they needed money for wars.’
Charles I came back to England with a new-found passion for collecting art, one of the first paintings in his collection was called ‘girl in a fur’ by Titian which was painted between 1536–1538.
Charles thought that by possessing a large and prestigious art collection it would convey his own dynasty’s power and authority which is kind of similar to today’s age. You see all these billionaires flaunting their cash in museums, it’s their playground. Did you see the stunt in Sotheby’s museum where Banksy had an art piece— Girl with Balloon.
When it was put into auction and sold, the painting was remotely shredded as soon as it was sold. Of course, it increased in value afterward.
Nicolas Lanier was responsible for arguably the greatest coup in the history of art collecting, the acquisition of the Mantuan collection for Charles I.
Negotiations stumbled on for two years, and in 1628 the deaths of successive dukes and the pressure of debts finally persuaded the Gonzagas to relinquish their greatest treasure, the nine canvases of Mantegna’s Triumph of Caesar (c.1484–92), with its powerful ceremonial scenes of elephants and trumpeters, chariots and crowds. But it took until 1630 for the Triumph to arrive and two more years for the King to pay his bill. The spectacular Gonzaga purchase crowned Charles as a discerning connoisseur and spread ripples of envy across Europe.
Charles then hired a painter called Anthony Van Dyck who soon became his court painter and he painted hundreds of paintings for him and his family. Meanwhile, Charles would continue to rage quit and dissolve the Parliament, 5 times in total. His advisor Buckingham was murdered and then Charles started a civil war against the Parliament mainly John Pym who started it. Pym originally asked him to leave the army, church and the royalties all to the Parliament to deal with and Buckingham was dead now and he couldn’t give him any advice. At first, led on by his wife, Charles tried to arrest 5 members of parliament, unsuccessfully and then when Pym asked again if Parliament could take over he was like no, I’m not having it and decided to go to war with the parliamentarians.
It all started well for Charles in the Civil War, he won a few battles but unfortunately didn’t win the war thanks to Oliver Cromwell, who sided with the parliamentarians and within a few years, had defeated Charles’s army and captured him. They were happy to let him rule back as king, if he agreed to certain terms.
He was still stubborn about his Divine Right of Kings and he would not let someone else take his power. The parliamentarians had no choice but to execute him and then one of his closest friends, the Duke of Richmond said - ‘A crown so nearly lost was never so easily recovered as this would have been.’ At the time of his death on January 30, 1649, he wore two shirts so people wouldn’t mistake his shivering for fear.
It wasn’t enough to just chop off his head, the paintings had to go as well. He had amassed a collection of over 2,000 artworks which were auctioned off by Oliver Cromwell.
That’s it for this week’s post.
Thanks so much for reading :)