Charles I: A Political Life

Charles I: A Political Life

Charles I: A Political Life

Charles I: A Political Life


Charles I was a complex man whose career intersected with some of the most dramatic events in English history. He played a central role in provoking the English Civil War, and his execution led to the only republican government Britain has ever known. Historians have struggled to get him into perspective, veering between outright condemnation and measured sympathy.

Richard Cust shows that Charles I was not 'unfit to be a king', emphasising his strengths as a party leader and conviction politician, but concludes that, none the less, his prejudices and attitudes, and his mishandling of political crises did much to bring about a civil war in Britain. He argues that ultimately, after the war, Charles pushed his enemies into a position where they had little choice but to execute him.


So much has been written about Charles I in the last 30 years that any biography must, to a considerable extent, be a work of synthesis. This is particularly true of this book. My footnotes demonstrate how heavily I have drawn on the work of others and benefited from their insights. I am particularly grateful to Tom Cogswell, Ken Fincham, Ann Hughes, Sean Kelsey, Peter Lake, Anthony Milton, Brian Quintrell, Ian Roy, David Scott, Kevin Sharpe, Malcolm Smuts, Christopher Thompson, Nicholas Tyacke and Malcolm Wanklyn. Their generosity in commenting on drafts and discussing ideas has been invaluable. My greatest intellectual debt, however, is to Conrad Russell. This book is the product of a dialogue about Charles which has been going on for nearly 30 years. I was going to say there are still lots of things on which we disagree, and I know that he will continue to enjoy arguing about them; however, just as I was completing this typescript I learnt of his death. I hope this book can stand as a tribute to his love of scholarship and his inspirational qualities as a teacher.

On a personal level I could not have completed this book without the support and encouragement of my friends. I am particularly grateful to John Bourne, Jacqueline Eales, Jeff Goodman, Eric Ives, Bob Knecht, George Lukowski, Brendan Mannion, Angela Trikic, Ian Williams, Diana and Nigel Wood and my friends at Lichfield Cricket Club and in the history department at Birmingham University. I also want to thank Heather McCallum and Keith Robbins for their patience and support as this book got longer and longer. Generations of Birmingham students have had Charles inflicted on them without showing too many signs of boredom. I am grateful for their enthusiasm and interest, in particular that of Peter Holland. Finally I want to thank Ann, Alice and David for their help, encouragement and much else besides. Alice and David have still to be convinced that history is ‘cool’, but they have listened politely while I have droned on about it.

Lichfield October 2004


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