359 Charles is At Home


Charles was determined to run his court completely differently to his father. Controlled, regulated, ordered; an example of a warm, loving and enlightened household that would prove an example of the majesty and stability of his reign.

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For a Reading List of books by historians to whom I am indebted for the writing of the resign of Charles I and Interregnum, please go to the Bibliographies: Civil Wars


In June 1629, Peter Paul Rubens came to England. For my sins, I thought Rubens was ‘nowt but a painter & decorator; I did not realise that he was also a very active and influential diplomat for the Spanish Hapsburgs. Did you know that? I am told that one of his objectives was to end the war with the Dutch, a running sore of course that had been draining the Hapsburgs of treasure for decades. It appears that Rubens did not see England as a cipher; he had a plan, and England was critical to it. He came to England seeking peace between Spain and England, because he believed that would force the Dutch to come to terms. This is evidence that geniuses of the pictorial arts are no better at predicting the future than anyone else.

I feel like telling you a bit more about Rubens’ visit – it’s not why I bring him up, I have to say, it’s definitely a digression, but I thought it might be amusing to you, Rubens being so famous and all. Charles sent one of his warships to get him – the Hapsburg name opens doors, but Charles had a passion for art, and I guess would have been excited to meet him too; he had commissioned a self portrait from Rubens, hung it outside his bedchamber at Whitehall and looked at it every day. Charles and Rubens met twice at Greenwich palace; but apparently did not discuss the banqueting Hall commission although that would come; they stuck to diplomacy. Rubens was convinced Charles wanted peace, writing to Olivares that he was

‘Sure in my heart’…that Charles would prefer a ‘simple friendship with Spain a thousand times more than all the offers of France’…and ‘curses the day when the Palatinate came to his attention’.

The diplomacy went OK; they managed to produce a written proposal from Charles which was apparently as rare as finding hen’s teeth; Rubens presented Charles with a painting entitled Peace and War, celebrating Charles as a peaceful king like his dad. Rubens would be back in March 1630, and in the Banqueting House whose ceiling he was to paint, Rubens was knighted by Charles.

Despite his initial success with the king in 1629, Rubens wasn’t actually that hopeful of ultimate success; he wrote to Olivares about the complexities of working in England; he reported himself

‘Very apprehensive as to the instability of the English government’

That they changed their minds all the time, and interestingly that whereas

In other courts negotiations begin with the ministers and finish with the royal word and signature’…here…’they begin with the king and end with the ministers’.

Now it’s certainly true that English foreign policy wavers a bit over the next 10 years, though given they had no iron fist in the velvet glove, it’s all pretty inconclusive. But more interesting here I think is the light that it sheds on Charles’ style of and skill in governing during the personal rule.

I have to say, as with most things to do with the English Revolution and the British Civil Wars in general, particularly related to Charles and Crommers there are more available conflicting opinions than flies on…well there are a lot of opinions is all I’m saying.  Charles Carleton paints a picture of an essentially idle, arms length king, much given to thumping the table, setting up sub committees –  and then naffing off to go hunting, without the attention to detail and persistence that gets things done.  A bit of a chip off the old block basically. Richard Cust on the other hand paints a picture of a king very directly involved, conscientious, and firm in decision making. Conrad Russell doesn’t agree with this necessarily, and takes issue with the traditional view that Charles was incapable of taking advice; but his view is, that despite taking advice, Charles never compromised on the strategy, the ultimate objective, only on tactics about getting there – on strategy he was massively inflexible. Sometimes he might appear to compromise on tactics, and thereby raise expectations that he might cut a deal – but he rarely did. So far, I have to say the spirit of compromise seems to have been pretty weak.

However, the picture that emerges in the views of most historians is as something of a princely swot We know that Charles very much valued structure and self control, and he structured his working day rigidly, a day in which prayer and working on state papers figured highly. He read papers extensively and carefully, annotating them in long hand, and usually giving very clear instructions. He listened to advice, and although it is not clear he could be persuaded into action that did not meet with his conscience; as Conrad Russell has noted, as far as objective and negotiations were concerned, it was more a matter of deciding what his conscience could accept, and then discussing ways and means to get to that point. More than one historian has seen in this a basic lack of confidence; that he would insist he be followed and obeyed in his decisions in the smallest thing because he needed complete compliance and outward displays of loyalty to reassure himself he was right.

However, there was certainly debate in Council; Charles did not surround himself with ‘yes’ men and his councillors did not hesitate to disagree and disagree strongly on occasion; there is one occasion during the forced loan when Manchester and Conway actually amend a letter from the king without royal permission. Again, this is no tyranny with people creeping around terrified to speak out. How much trust his councillors had in his abilities to make good decisions, and how far they felt they could sway him on the essentials is much more doubtful – Russell again argues that while councillors could gain access to their king, access did not necessarily bring influence. And if councillors could not influence essential policy, what was the point of them being there might be a reasonable question, certainly in Scotland, many privy councillors just  stopped turning up to meetings.

But in terms of hard work, Charles was very present – and to take you back to Rubens quote, maybe too much; Charles was at the start of everything and owned every aspect of strategy. Ministers were expected then to do as they were instructed. This will be a particular problem in Scotland when Charles gets involved in religious reform – he accepted very little advice from minsters on the spot, and expected them to carry out his instructions. With disastrous results, as it happens, and the process itself was deeply demotivating for ministers. It was very different in Ireland, where Charles would delegate control to a large degree to Wentworth – but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Charles was rigorous in separating the business of government from life in his personal household – they were entire different things; he even showed a steely resolve not to allow HM to exercise influence as far as policy was concerned, or at least not until war broke out. So we might applaud him, I guess for a good work life balance. No idea what that means or looks like to be fair. In a way it’s a bit difficult to describe exactly what this means, because the nobility that surrounded him at court could be both his companions, and his advisers. The outward facing elements of his court – chamber, presence chamber for example – would be where he conducted business with ambassadors and petitioners. But he tried to make a distinction between the people he employed in his household, and those he dealt with for business and government. Weston and other minsters of the Privy Council were about governmental business; the marquis of Hamilton, Earl of Carlisle – these were essentially courtiers. I’m not sure how useful all this is I must say – because lines were frequently crossed; Hamilton would become his chief representative in Scotland, and both he and Carlisle went on diplomatic expeditions. However Charles maintained a distinction as far as he could – ministers were for business, courtiers for social life, and his ministers frequently felt excluded from the social life bit.

As far as the business of government was concerned, the change from his early years in one respect was remarkable; there would be no favourite to replace Buckingham, that was not the way Charles would do business anymore. The most important and I suppose chief minister until his death in 1635 was the Treasurer Richard Weston, despite the fact that the Queen heartily disliked him, because she considered him as mean as mousehit. But he never even vaguely approached the level of autonomy, influence and dominance of patronage Buckingham had achieved. When Weston hoped and expected to become Lord Admiral, Charles did not make the appointment at all. There was no repeat of the situation where to get to the king you needed to go through a minister. William Laud was also extremely influential with Charles; but in the main, Charles kept him restricted to church policy – so again there was no one dominant voice.

In other ways it was also clear that Charles was the driver of the bus. He regularly attended Privy Council meetings in person. His privy council amounted to 42 people – which is clearly no sort of place to make any decisions other than camels. But the vast majority of those positions were honorific and regular attendance was about 12, much more manageable. Councils met regularly on Wednesdays and Fridays, usually in a council chamber close to the king’s bedchamber in Whitehall palace, though sometimes in the Palace of Westminster in the Star Chamber. After 1635 the weight of business meant they met on Sundays too. It’s difficult to know exactly how often Charles attended; but in the late 1630s for a couple of years he may have been to 40 a year, if that’s typical, so at that time he was going to roughly 40% of meetings. When key issues were being discussed, he might take the chair and lead discussion; on occasion he even brought forward proposals himself. These could be pretty detailed; listen to this for example, in 1635 he brought a proposal for taxing local maltsters. I’m getting flashes of Philip II here, labouring away all hours deep in the Escorial palace, checking and annotating everything from all over the world…

Charles kept discussions in his English Privy Council strictly to English affairs – and held a separate council for Scottish affairs. In some ways this was helpful, maintaining a focus; in other ways it was not. His English advisers had no information to help when the Scottish crisis blew up, and the Scottish councillors at Whitehall in his council were pretty remote from the real currents of feeling in Scotland.

Finally, as far as patronage was concerned it’s a bit difficult to tell how far he was involved at every level; but at some point he would know about an appointment. Generally, he relied on courtiers to bring forward petitions, recognising that he often lacked the expertise to identify the right person in specialist areas. But again, there was no resumption of the system where getting your petition sorted meant going through the great Duke who would shove it in front of the king’s nose for 10 seconds; requests for grants and jobs now went through proper bureaucratic channels, and the king would be involved. And for senior appointments – well, Charles’ fingers were all over those. You have to say, or I am finding myself saying, all of this sounds thoroughly organised and above board and all rather impressive. If we are looking for a corrupt tyrant type, it doesn’t seem to be here.

Nor, I am forced to say, will you find it in the king’s household. Now obviously I am drawing away very much from high politics, but the whole court thing is rather fascinating, which is what we are now going to talk about – Charles at home, slippers, pipe, ovaltine, the works.

As a model for a royal court we might take James’, which Charles of course would have known very well indeed. Well, as you may remember, James’ court was a bit of a riot. James had a hail-fellow-well-met sort of approach to his courtiers; if he liked you especially, he might walk around informally with you, his hand on your shoulder that sort of thing. He liked parties, he liked a drink or 6, a bit of dancing, plays, masques. There was a lot of politicking going on in James’ court some of it as we heard, pretty scandalous. James probably hoped and believed that his court was, as he intended, the font of wisdom and exemplar of culture and behaviour it was supposed to be. But from outside from the country looking in –  it really wasn’t. In the public mind it was beset with favourites, scandals, Catholics in high places, it appeared to leak money, and indeed it did leak money.

Charles was not a fan of his father’s ways – the lack of control, the informality, the factions and politicking – this all brought Charles out in spots, and made him lie down in a dark room with a flannel on his brow. Now that he was in charge, using the historical analysis of the Stranglers, things had better change, and they did. Charles was open about this – he wanted his court to be, as he felt a monarch should be, the image of virtue. So he issued a proclamation early in his reign

In the late reign of our dear father…we saw much disorder in and about his household…finding this to bring much dishonour to our house we have resolved the reformation thereof

That’s quite openly critical of his Dad but I suppose everyone was thinking it, so why not say it and crush the serpent head? Now Charles’ gloss was that he was going to return to the days of Good Queen Bess and reinstate

The rules and maxims of the late Queen Elizabeth

This had about as much truth as his frequent and frequently dodgy assertion that he was making no innovations in religion, and was simply maintaining the church according to the way it was under the Elizabethan settlement. But it had enough truth to make it not absurd – though wasn’t really accurate; just as in the church, Charles brought his own interpretation and imposed strict rules where before there’d been latitude; from 1630 in particular there are strict regulations about the way his court would be run. But it had a certain truth, that Elizabeth worked hard to maintain the morality and behaviour of her courtiers, which wasn’t one of James’ strengths.







In addition to Elizabeth and James, Charles had a couple of other examples to follow – from the centres of European culture, France and Spain. In the French model as in Elizabeth’s court, the monarch lived life in the public gaze surrounded by a densely populated court, inclusive, open, where the king was constantly available to his leading subjects and in the public eye.  The Spanish court was very different, and of course Charles had seen it first hand – when you know he went there in total secrecy, heavily disguised; and he had liked what he saw. The Spanish Court was a very closed world, the monarch was hidden away behind levels of strict protocol, and access carefully allocated; business and events were conducted with old world style and gravitas, very much in the spirit of the nobility.  It was designed to project the mystique of kingship, a sense of almost religious reverence for the king, order, a high moral tone and permanence. These are things at the heart of Charles’ life and his political philosophy – he represented the real liberty that came with order, hierarchy, stability and the responsibility of the society’s leaders towards their people – and vice versa, the peoples’ responsibility to obey.

To emphasise all of these – hierarchy, order, reverence for the king – access to the king’s person was now tightly controlled; his privy chamber was available only to noblemen, councillors and gentlemen of the privy chamber; his bedchamber suite, where he took most of his meals was accessible only to the princes of the blood and the grooms who worked there. The Venetian ambassador noted

The king observes a rule of great decorum. The nobles do not enter his apartments in confusion as heretofore, but each rank has its appointed place…the king has also drawn up  rules for himself dividing the day from his very early rising, for prayers, exercises, business, eating and sleeping

All the hurly burly stuff was swept away; the knight marshal was ordered to make sure that no tippling houses, shacks or tents were erected alongside the palace walls. This was a disappointment to the Del-Boys of the day, since these big royal residences were stuffed full of rich courtiers, their hormones and lusts, and their servants, and so attracted a cloud of hangers on, dodgy commercial offers and all sorts; orders were given to remove all of them from royal sight all the

Rogues, beggars, idle and loose people

Which would probably have called time on podcasters to be fair, we are generally an idle and loose lot. There was a special court of the royal palace – able to arrest and condemn transgressors and told to hang the guilty outside the main gate to make the point clear to all. The king’s dinner was served at ten with great ceremony, food presented to him and his family on bended knee – all so elaborate that some wag noted he must never have eaten his food warm.

This was a world he could control and order as he wished.  He saw it as a household, a little commonwealth, an expression of the great chain of being, where everyone knew their place and function, working for the general good under his fatherly leadership as head of the household. You know, just like the household of an honest husbandmen only – tadge bigger. It may well be that he felt that if his court was well regulated, happy and at peace, then surely so must be the country. This would prove to be an inaccurate expectation, I’m very sorry to say.

The thing is that Charles was very much a family man, and with the departure of Buckingham from the scene his marriage was reduced to the more traditional number of two, and against the original form actually really began to flourish. It became clear that Charles and HM really had something in common and most thoroughly enjoyed each others’ company; and despite the difficulties of developing any kind of personal relationship when everyone was looking at your smallest move – they loved each other and for 12 years or so would enjoy a thoroughly life enhancing family life. Now that is something you can’t say about every monarch, so if we are looking to distribute medals, there’s one for Charles and HM. Not sure we are in the business of distributing medals but I’ve just done it.

While we are on the topic of family, this is probably the time to mention that when the birds and the bees love each other very much children sometimes follow, if I am not mixing my metaphors. In May 1629 HM & Charles suffered the pain of an infant death, the baby dying on the same day. But after that they were blessed with a succession of children – although there’s really never an excuse to use the word in public, I think the word fecund is appropriate here. Charles was born just a year later, 29th May 1630 – and was most significant since it meant that Elizabeth of the Rhone Palatinate was no longer heir to England’s throne. Note bene. Then we have Mary 1631; James 1633 – oh dearie me – and then three Children who died either very young or on the day of their birth in 1635,7 and 9. Then Henry, Duke of Gloucester in 1642 and Henrietta in 1644, before the civil war drove the birds and the bees away.

The Privy Chambers of Charles’ court therefore became a closed, private world which he could centre around his family life. He and HM shared a lot of interests, and had joint friendships; Thomas and Alathea Howard for example, the Earl and Countess of Arundel shared their interest in art; the earl for example was one of the greatest collectors of art who would search the continent for interesting pieces to share with the king; Henrietta as we’ve heard had developed a friendship with Lucy, Countess of Carlisle and others. Henrietta loved the masques which were regularly played in the court. She had a thoroughly nice time lavishing her patronage on the six royal palaces allocated to her; in addition to which Charles bought a new one for her, Wimbledon Manor, on the basis of the principle of packing suitcases which, as I am sure you are aware, is that there is always room for one more. And anyway having only 6 houses is such a bore, darling. There were great rebuilding projects at her palaces of Somerset House and Greenwich Palace, in particular, and were remodelled and furnished with great elegance and luxury. Charles and HM were very rarely apart, even going hunting with him too. In 1632 when HM had an attack of smallpox, Charles could not be prised from her side for love nor money. It is a period where HM would say with joy that she was ’the happiest of women’.

This conjugal harmony was obvious and noticed by the people who were graced with access to this world, and reflected it onto the kingdom as a whole. One courtier wrote to John Coke, the hardworking Secretary of state

Never was there private family more at full peace and tranquillity than in this glorious kingdom, for we hear not of the least disorder therein from one end to the other

Back to Rubens again; when he visited Charles he wrote back to the king of Spain about what he’d seen at Charles court

All the leading nobles here live on a most sumptuous scale and spend money lavishly…splendour and liberality are the first considerations of this court

Which must have been heart warming to see when you were out digging mangels on a dark, cold and wet October in Suffolk, and on the contrast between the inner life and how it appeared to the rest of world outside, more later. But as far as Rubens is concerned, given he was acquainted with the court of Spain, which really was full of glitter and rigid formality, this was compliment indeed.  There was a bit of a kicker in Rubens letter home, though, when he wrote

In this place I find none of the crudeness that one might expect from a place so remote from Italian elegance

To which one might express sympathy for a place that’s so far from the triumphs of English culture like…um…warm beer! Football! Or maybe something a bit cleverer, ideas on a postcard. Or possibly just an eyeroll or a major tut would do the job.

Now, all of this opulence came at a bit of a price.  It was a rather bigger household than your typical Suffolk husbandman. Below stairs doing all the services were about 300 people; above stairs doing all the grand hanging around in chambers serving the king and looking opulent were twice that number. The numbers required to support the royal family are rather remarkable; 58 gentlemen pensioners attended on the king personally for example [come on someone must have some matches?]; there were 263 members of the royal stables.  The queen’s household was additional too, with 172 servants, and then by the end of the decade, 200 more in the households of the royal kiddie-winks. There were of course multiple royal palaces – Whitehall, St James, Richmond, Hampton Court, Windsor, Theobalds – and more. I think Nonsuch was by this stage a bit of a mess. There were way too many – Henry VIII’s fault really, I think he amassed 55 did he not?

So the royal household was enormous – in all, at any one time the royal household supported between 1,800 and 2,600 people, which made it the 7th or 8th largest community in the kingdom. It cost about £260,000 a year, or 40% of total royal income to 1635.  Part of that household was often on the move; from moving around royal residences but also visiting hapless courtiers for a bit of a freebie, in the same way James and Elizabeth frequently did. Now, the idea of moving around the country was a well worn aspect of monarchy; the progress was a way not only of having a bit of fun at the expense of your richer subjects, and spending your time hunting; it was also a way of showing yourself to the people. Now for sure, Charles loved a freebie, and Charles loved hunting. He was apparently a good judge of a horse, a fine rider, and pretty wild too, getting himself in some scrapes. In his love of hunting, he was just like his dad, for whom of course it was almost a religion. However, it has been argued that Charles was not so keen on was showing himself to his people on the way.  It’s not that he did not include official visits as he went – there was one in 1634 for example to Nottingham, and in 1637 to Northampton. But they became rarer and rarer; when the royal party was in town for the hunt it was more likely to cause a lot of trouble, as the party swarmed over the landscape; stripping it clean of lodging and supplies and then moving on, the king an unseen mystery somewhere hidden in the middle of it all.





This may well have been because Charles was not a fan of hurly burly and pressing the flesh; he did not have the populist facility and confidence his father and Queen Elizabeth had. The ritual of his court was much more to his taste – it gave everything structure, order, control –distance, and safety.

Now, I believe we have talked about the magnificent display of royal courts before, many times over the years I would guess. I remember particularly how well the Tudors, from Henry VII onwards, held dear the importance of presenting a message of their majesty, power and magnificence to their people.  Charles has been accused by one historian of communicating very poorly with his subjects; but Charles did believe in the importance of art and symbols to communicate the values of his kingship, and its meanings. So here we go on one of my specialist subjects – not. I would like to thank Richard Cust and Charles Carlton for their knowledge, which I am stealing.

On the first bit of this it seems generally agreed and common knowledge that Charles was an art collector of some genius.  It was a passion from an early age; he acquired a decent collection from his older brother; he was a friend to other passionate and expert collectors such as Thomas Howard who had a collection of 779 paintings. The extent of his passion rather frustrated his ministers at times; Dorchester went searching for his master with a bundle of correspondence, desperate to discuss foreign policy opportunities released by Gustavus Adolphus’ victories; he grumpily recorded that he finally found the King in the Whitehall Palace Picture gallery

In the midst of his antique pictures no less seriously employed…placing and removing his Emperors’ heads and putting them in order’.

He had an eye; at the age of 20 he sent a commission back to Rubens, because he could see it was painted not by the great man, but by one of his apprentices – and the Master ‘fessed up and apologised. He was acquainted with the Spanish school from his travels, and in 1628 acquired a massive collection from the Duke of Mantua; I’m told that when a batch of new paintings came in, he had the labels removed so he could guess the artist to test himself. His patronage of Van Dyck is probably one of the best known things about his reign other than…you know, the other thing. By the time he died, his art collection numbered over 1700 paintings.

Now that’s a super short summary of a rich topic that fills many TV programmes of fabulous paintings. In addition, while the glory days of England’s renaissance theatre was now fading, both he and HM adored the masque, which you will hopefully remember are very formulaic pageants involving painted backdrops, music, dancing. And he was an enthusiastic patron of architects such as Inigo Jones of the new formal, austere Palladian styles.

Now; in all of this Charles was both talented and thoroughly modern; his artistic tastes brought the English court into the mainstream of European culture. In addition he was very aware of the importance of art as a medium to deliver messages – art and masques should enlighten and civilise as well as being good to look at – so he was very aware that he might communicate a message, and his art and masques were laden with symbols. Van Dyck’s paintings in particular have been identifying Charles as personifying the peacemaker, the unifier of England and Scotland, an image of wisdom and justice; he’s represented as the father of his people, in one painting seated in the middle of a family group, calmly looking at the viewer.  In another, La Chasse, he was represented as resting after the hunt, the ultimate courtier, elegant, well-dressed, but in command of his surroundings and of himself. The message, I am told is of a king who could rule the kingdom because he had learned to rule himself and subdue his own passions – a sort of philosopher king.

The masque was also deeply symbolic; but masques of course were very much restricted to the closed world of the court of the king and his courtiers. They were also very much about the monarch; they stressed the perfection of Charles’ and HM’s love, they celebrated the government’s policies and proclaimed the authority of the king. They generally began with an antimasque, in which a world of order and harmony was plunged into chaos by evil influences and vice; sometimes those were represented by popular rebellion, sometimes quite specifically referencing the likes of John Cade and Robert Kett. Then the virtues would arrive, led by the king and queen bringing harmony and understanding.






So, there then is a very, superfast and shallow presentation of the home life of Charles I; I could have taken so much longer, it’s a fascinating topic. There’s quite a lot of positives there I think you will agree; a family man with a close relationship with his wife. A man of tight self control, who managed to keep his work and private life surprisingly separate. We’ll talk in another episode about the impact of his Queen’s Catholicism and the very visible presence of his wife’s catholic household – but the evidence seems to be that his wife’s support for Catholics had little impact on his policy at least – Charles enforced taxation on recusants far harder than his father for example. He was a deeply cultured man, very much at the forefront of a cosmopolitan European culture, who regulated his household and kept a firm rein on their behaviour and morality; so much so that a puritan, who would later be very much an opponent, the diarist Lucy Hutchinson, felt his court edicts showed a king ‘temperate, chaste and serious’. A man who believed deeply in his role as father of his people, and took that responsibility seriously.

And yet there were factors here that would not play out well as England moved towards crisis. This was a closed world, defined and regulated by the king; all these masques and glorious images came from his own eyes and from the court, was largely seen only by his eyes and those of this courtiers – and was therefore a self reassuring and self perpetuating image. There is no feedback mechanism here telling Charles whether this was or was not the view of him held by the mass of his subjects who lived outside this golden circle.  Although he understood the power of symbols and images, he took precious little opportunity to make sure these were communicated widely outside the golden circle. Masques were almost never seen outside the court; the grand images rarely either, and he steadily withdrew from the traditional method monarchs had of communicating these values – the royal progress, which began to be increasingly family and court occasions with little or no contact with the local community. Charles was a big fan of the Order of the Garter, and instituted a big progress every year which could have been a perfect public celebration; but typically under Charles it was held within Windsor castle – the public were kept away. In addition, many of the images of the anti masque seem to represent the public world outside the court as antagonistic, dangerous, threatening – the chaos of crude and popular opinion symbolised by vice and excess, to be subdued and reformed by their wise and beneficent king and queen; almost a siege mentality inside the court.  As far as the country was concerned, for many the court could also look quite alien – a grand, distant, inaccessible world, espousing new austere architecture and culture alien to the display, excess, populism and exuberant architecture of the Tudors.

Charles had clearly understood the importance of the public sphere in politics and communication in 1629, and used it quite effectively, as evidenced by his proclamation in March 1629 justifying his dissolution of parliament. But it is notable that this was the last royal proclamation of that type until 1639; and since parliament had been banished, there was no great pressure on him to communicate to his subjects about the thinking behind his policies, nor was there any feedback mechanism as to what his subjects thought and felt.  Ironically it might be that his apparent triumph over of the institution he had begun to see as his enemy, held in it his greatest danger. Charles was increasingly living in a cut off world where all the feedback re-inforced his self image, beliefs and values, and filled him with confidence in his own abilities and success as a monarch. A view which was not necessarily shared by his subjects, or at very least a set of values and policies that needed to be properly communicated. When the crisis came, it would test the strength of the castle he had built in the air.



11 thoughts on “359 Charles is At Home

  1. Two questions and one comment.
    Question 1: Did the failure of Charles to find a replacement for Buckingham result from a conscious decision by the king not to convey that much power to a single subject? Or had he matured to a point where he no longer felt a need for such a favorite (possible because his relationship with Henrietta had become much stronger)?
    Question 2: How much nostalgia for Good Queen Bess actually existed in England in the 1630s? It seems to me that only fairly elderly folk (by the standards of the day) would have been adults during her reign, and probably only for the last 15 years or so, not the actual peak of Gloriana.
    Comment: your discussion of Charles closed family and court circle in the 1630s reminds me of the closed family and court circle of Nicholas and Alexandra in the decade before the Russian Revolution.

    1. Hi Jerry. I think (but don’t know) Charles simply grew out of the need and desire to have a favourite; I think Buckingham was more lie a big brother to him, and he simply grew up. But you must be right; that his relationship with Henrietta Maria removed the need for the kind of relationship James needed. And it’s a good question! THe impression I get, but only an impression, is that Good Queen Bess had already passed into legend, and therefore enhanced rather than diminished by the loss of living memory. But my impression comes only from the political word of Gentry and nobility. Interesting point about the Tsar!

  2. Have you got a cold? You sound a bit congested, but many people are at the moment. Get well soon (if you are under the weather)!

    Great episode, many thanks. The comparison to Philip II and his court is a great insight. Both kings seemed to wish to micromanage state affairs, and, though both were ultimately regarded as failures, Philip died in his bed aged 78 and Charles – didn’t. I can see two differences off the top of my head. First, though Philip was reclusive, his personal style of clothes and behavior was plain, not grand, and he was often seen by his subjects when traveling – not to mention the famous time when he stopped his coach, got out and knelt in the street, alongside the common people, as a religious procession passed by. The court was very grand, but the people saw a king rather like themselves. Second, unlike Charles, Philip didn’t generally face more than one kind of internal unrest at a time. The costs of his external adventures beggared and depopulated his Spanish possessions, but the various rebellions he faced in Spain were strung out over his 40 years on the throne. Charles’ rebellions came not single spies but in battalions. Bad luck, more divergent possessions or more incompetent rule?

    1. Hi Esme and yes! It’s the first I’ve had for three years and so has lingered horribly! I left recording to the very last moment but still…

      I agree (as always!) with the limit of comparison with Phillip II, though both actually very devout. I was really only thinking of that aspect of them where they felt everything had to go through their hands. With Philip, a far greater challenge of course, given the enormous breadth of his territories. I’d also love to know more about the rebellions he faced, because I suspect they were different in character to the English civil war which was so utterly division down to most levels of society; whereas I suspect in Aragon, Philip essentially faced a noble revolt? I don’t know enough though. But yes, good point about that famous story, and of course Philip didn’t really fall out with his church in the same way

      1. Ginger slices and lemon juice in hot water really helps me. A friend swears by whisky toddies, but, when I asked if they helped get rid of the cold, she said the main benefit was, she stopped minding she was sick …
        I think the comparison of Charles with Philip is very fruitful: both were personally very moral, micromanagers in government, rigid thinkers, creators of a court structure that insulated them from confrontation with other points of view, and sincerely religious believers who thought God was a Hapsburg/Stuart. As you note, however, Philip did not run afoul of religious orthodoxy. Can’t imagine when you’d have time to read it, but I much enjoyed a book by Geoffrey Parker called The Grand Strategy of Philip II. Parker argues that Philip exhausted his finite resources and missed his goals by insisting on pursuing all policy priorities at the same time, and relying on God to fill the resource gaps because He shared Philip’s goals. Will be most interested to hear if Charles fails in a similar way.

        1. I used to love whiskey. Then something happened to my body and I can no longer deal with it, but I admire the sentiment!. But I will give the Ginger and Lemon a whirl. Now, Geoff ( I call him Geoff) was my tutor at university. I read his biography of PII but not that one…he is clever though.

          1. So envious to hear this! I’ve read 4-5 of Parker’s books, including his account of the Armada. His marvelous bio of Philip – “Don’t touch the relics!” makes me laugh and laugh.
            Good luck with the ginger & lemon. Boil a pot of water; drop the fresh ginger in when it’s at a rolling boil & turn off heat. Then add the juice of at least half a lemon, and some honey if you like. leave the pot on the stove, with ingredients in the water, and keep drinking the water until it’s gone.
            Again, thanks for great episode. I know the civil war story (stories in 3 kingdoms) will be hard to follow, but am sure your careful build-up will pay off.

  3. I DID IT. After 2 years of going on 20 episode binges in a like week. Then walking away for a months, and repeating I have finally caught up.

    Just gotta say this podcast is a blast and I have enjoyed every minute of it even when my Catholic heart started to complain about how history isn’t fair.

    You make it funny, easy to understand, are obviously passionate about the subjects and I never feel like I don’t understand what is going on in the narrative and why it is happening.

    You are probably my second favorite history podcaster, with only Mike Duncan standing higher and I have been listing to him for 15 years, and you manage to make it a close second.

    I can’t wait to indulge in the back log of the shedcast and just want to say keep up the good work and I appreciate all the work you have done.

    1. Congratulation! And what a lovely message to receive, thank you so much, wouldn’t make a lot of sense if no one enjoyed it! And I am more than happy to be second to Mike Duncan, who was, like so many, the reason I started podcasting. Good luck with the Shedcasts

  4. “Then we have Mary 1631, one day to be Queen”

    Of where? Surely not England, though she’d be the mother of a king. I think her future husband was a prince, though, right?

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