Charles I surrendered to the Scottish Covenanters on the 5th of May, 1646.
Charles I & I was the last King of Scots to be born in Scotland, although he lived most of his life in England, where his subjects ultimately grew tired of his tyranny and decided to terminate his career. In fact, they terminated him, period. He wasn’t the only King of Scots to have been killed by Englishmen, but he was the only one to be tried, found guilty and executed by Englishmen. Of course, those Englishmen who were happy to be associated with regicide weren’t in the least bit concerned that Charlie was also King of Scots. Whatever the manner of his living, the manner of King Charles’ death was befitting of a King – at least that’s what they thought in those days – his big heid was chappit aff.
To have been tried and sentenced, Charles had to have been apprehended in the first instance, but he was a slippery character. After the writing was on the wall, so to speak, he tried his damndest to avoid being detained by his English subjects, but ultimately his luck ran out. The beginning of the end came on the 5th of May, 1646, when King Charles Stuart surrendered to the Scottish Covenanters engaged in the siege of Newark on Trent. The Scots then escorted him to Newcastle; intent on bargaining with the English for their own advantage. The English Parliamentary Army countered that manoeuvre by threatening to take the King by force. Eventually, in settlement of an indemnity agreed earlier, through the Treaty of Ripon, in 1641, the Scots agreed to hand over the King. But the story doesn’t end there; the crafty Charlie wasn’t yet ready to give up.
The second son of James VI of Scotland and Anne of Denmark, Charles was born at Fife in Scotland, on the 19th of November, 1600. When his father succeeded Elizabeth I and became James I of England, in 1603, Charles became heir to the throne of the Three Kingdoms after the untimely death of his elder brother Prince Henry. Created Prince of Wales in 1616, Charles was instructed by his father in every aspect of ruling a kingdom. With that background and a profound belief that Kings were appointed by God to rule by ‘Divine Right’, Charles succeeded as the second Stuart King, in 1625.
In 1628, critics in Parliament turned their attention to Charles’ religious policy. He angrily dismissed his third Parliament, in 1629, and declared his intention of ruling alone, starting what became described as the ‘Eleven Year Tyranny’. Funnily enough, during the turmoil of the Civil Wars, many people looked back on that period as a golden age of peace and prosperity. By 1630, Charles had made peace with Spain and France, and trade and commerce grew. However, without Parliament to grant legal taxes, Charles was obliged to raise income by reviving a series of highly unpopular methods. Those included tonnage and poundage, forced loans, the sale of commercial monopolies and, notoriously, ‘Ship Money’. Charles’ measures alienated many natural supporters of the Crown.
Parliament was Calvinist and Charles’ controversial religious policies were deeply divisive, turning Puritans like Pym and Cromwell against him. He favoured the elaborate and ritualistic High Anglican form of worship and, in 1633, appointed William Laud as Archbishop of Canterbury. Laud was a follower of the anti-Calvinist theologian, Jacobus Arminius, and vigorously supported the King’s Divine Right, suppressing all opposition from Puritans. The King’s marriage to the French Catholic Princess, Henrietta Maria, didn’t help matters either; causing consternation amongst English Protestants.
The result of forcing the Anglican liturgy and ‘Laudian’ Prayer Book on the Scottish Kirk was the creation of the Scottish National Covenant and the First Bishops’ War. Charles invaded Scotland in 1639, but he ran out of money and, after signing the Treaty of Berwick, was obliged to recall Parliament, which he did in 1640, bringing his eleven-year ‘Personal Rule’ to an end. The ‘Short Parliament’ resulted, only to be dissolved after two months, hence the label. Then the Scots began the Second Bishop’s War by invading, capturing Newcastle and Durham, and forcing Charles to summon Parliament once more.
The ‘Long Parliament’ was just as hostile as the ‘Short’ had been, and a series of blunders by Charles led to the First Civil War, which began officially when Charles raised his standard at Nottingham Castle, in 1642. By early 1646, the combination of Parliament’s alliance with the Scottish Covenanters and the formation of Cromwell’s ‘New Model Army’ meant that even Charles could now see that up is what that game was. Nevertheless, Charles made a desperate gamble and, in late April, he fled Oxford in disguise, to surrender to the Scots, by then besieging Newark.
The King arrived at the Scottish headquarters at Southwell, on the 5th of May, 1646, and surrendered himself to Lieutenant General David Leslie, who was acting commander of the Covenanter army as his namesake, Alexander Leslie, the Earl of Leven, had withdrawn to Newcastle. Charles’ surrender seems to have been negotiated secretly between the Scots and Cardinal Mazarin’s envoy, Jean de Montereul. The Frenchman conveyed Charles’ offer to go to the Scots Army on receiving assurances that he would be secure, and that the Scots would assist in procuring peace. On Charles’ orders, Lord Belasyse surrendered Newark on the 8th of May, 1646, and on that very same day, the Scots broke camp and marched north to Newcastle, with the King in semi-captivity.
Charles’s hopes of turning the Scots into his allies were dashed because he couldn’t accept their demands – the ‘Newcastle Propositions’ – for Presbyterianism to be imposed on England. When the Scots Army received a third of its back pay, they handed Charles over to Parliament. That occurred in January, 1647, and three months later, in April, the ‘New Model Army’, which was itself in disagreement with the Presbyterian faction in Parliament, secured the person of the King. However, good ol’ Charlie wasn’t done yet. He escaped and after refusing to compromise over a settlement with the Army or with Parliament, Charles signed the ‘Engagement’ with the Scots. The ensuing Scottish invasion, and simultaneous Royalist uprisings in England and Wales, resulted in the short, but bitterly fought Second Civil War.
The Second Civil War culminated in Cromwell’s victory over the Scots at the Battle of Preston, in August, 1648. By then, the writing was truly on the wall for Charles. In January, 1649, Parliament appointed a High Court of Justice and the King was charged with high treason against the people of England. Charles I was found guilty and sentenced to death on the 27th of January, 1649. The King lost his heid on a scaffold outside the Banqueting House at Whitehall on the 30th of January.