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King Charles I

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King Charles I

by William Marshall
etching and line engraving, published 1649
5 1/2 in. x 7 in. (141 mm x 178 mm) paper size
Reference Collection
NPG D1305

Sitterback to top

  • King Charles I (1600-1649), Reigned 1625-49. Sitter associated with 335 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • William Marshall (circa 1617-1649), Engraver. Artist associated with 189 portraits, Sitter in 4 portraits.

This portraitback to top

Published just ten days after the King's execution, Eikon Basilike (The Image of the King) claimed to be a personal account of his suffering. Combining a moral justification of his reign with prayers of forgiveness for his executioners, it was a masterpiece of propaganda and became one of the most popular books of the seventeenth century. Parliament commissioned John Milton to write a theological riposte, but Eikonoklastes (the Iconoclast) failed to dislodge the popular perception of Charles I as a Christian martyr. This allegorical frontispiece shows Charles I receiving a crown of thorns. In this way, the suffering of the King is explicitly likened to the Passion of Christ.

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1649back to top

Current affairs

Charged with subverting the nation's laws and liberties and cruelly making war against Parliament and the English people, Charles I is found guilty by a court of 159 commissioners, and beheaded outside the Banqueting House, Whitehall.
England is declared a commonwealth and power is entrusted to a Council of State.

Art and science

Eikon Basilike, a self-exonerating account of Charles I's rule, is published days after his death. Allegedly written by the king himself, John Gauden, Bishop of Worcester, claimed authorship after the Restoration. Other tributes followed the king's death giving rise to a royalist cult of Charles the Martyr.


Oliver Cromwell, as lord lieutenant of Ireland, begins his campaign in Ireland to subdue royalist support, and leads English Parliamentarian forces against the Royalist-Confederate coalition. The campaign's bloody massacres, in particular, the Siege of Drogheda and Wexford where Cromwell's troops slaughtered soldiers and civilians alike, became notorious.

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Laurie Pettitt

21 March 2017, 11:50

It's very hard to call someone a Martyr when he created so many of them in his crazy wars, religious impositions cowardice (Strafford) and complete dishonesty. He dealt straight with nobody, even his closest advisers. No sooner had Wentworth raised a bit of Revenue in Ireland than Charles would give it to a favorite. Cromwell was straight and honest when he said that if he met the King in battle, he would treat him as a normal combatant. The Scots couldn't deal with him so they did a 'Pilate' and handed him back to the Parliament. They howled when Parliament Executed him but were powerless against his Perfidy (A Stuart trait). Refusal to plead should have meant the 'Prisoner' would be Pressed and his Posterity would be lost. His friends were allowed to prepare his body and give it a Christian Burial, but without the Bells and Candles. Even the mechanism for trying Charles was completely new. No assassination. No poisoning. No Star Chamber. All done in the Open with the names on the Death Warrant written clearly. Don't weep for this man, weep for the Soldiers and Sailors he killed. Weep for John Eliot's family whom Charles would not allow to take Eliot's body from the prison to give it a decent burial. Thomas Wentworth used to scowl at Charles' Court and all of Charles' friends and favorites, grasping for privilege. Wentworth called them 'Court Vermin'. Had Charles not sacrificed Wentworth (Strafford) the story of Ireland may have been much different. Much of the things that the Interregnum (And Wentworth) aimed at are now achieved but favouritism and back handers and old boys networks continue apace.

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