Was King Charles I of England a bad man, or just a bad leader?


Ad Honorem
Jun 2015
From the depiction of him, it seems that he was just too stubborn and headstrong.
He thought he was right, and had no room for compromise or negotiation.

But I don't think he believed what he did for any malevolent purpose. And since his father, James I, had adhered to a similar course (the Divine Right of Kings) it's understandable how he'd think that way.
Moreover, he still respected the country's most basic laws, which at that point was Magna Carta. Suspending Parliament (which pre-dated King Edward Longshanks's Model Parliament) had no provision for the permanent status of Parliament, which Charles suspended. Edward Longshanks only created the Model Parliament since he wanted money for the Scottish wars, and needed a holistic buy-in in doing this.
So his actions there weren't unconstitutional if such a term could apply in this context.

I don't agree that Charles was a martyr, but really his execution was the culmination of a life of extreme self-interest and dogmatism.
I get the impression that Charles II was more open and lenient only because he wanted to keep the throne. Had Charles I won the Civil Wars, I'm not sure if Charles II would have been as keen to conceal his Catholicism. James II certainly didn't.

Tercios Espanoles

Ad Honorem
Mar 2014
Beneath a cold sun, a grey sun, a Heretic sun...
If he had a failing, it was the inability to appreciate the depth of religious feeling of his subjects. A little circumspection in his dealings with the covenanters and puritans would have saved him his crown and his head.
Jul 2019
New Jersey
From everything I read, he seems to have just been a really bad leader. Hence, his ill-conceived attempt to foist Ariminianism on the Scottish Kirk and his inability to get along with Parliament. Also worth noting is that the Parliamentarians did some pretty low things too, such as their attainder and execution of Stafford.


Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
There were certain understandings that he violated. One was the approach of Elizabeth, making the Church of England as inclusive as possible, by allowing people to have Catholic or Protestant beliefs as long as they accepted church hierarchy with the monarch as head of the Church and the mass in English. Another was the power of parliament and the aristocracy and the somewhat limited power of the monarch, which went back in some form to Anglo-Saxon and Norman times. A third was the independence of Scotland under the same king.

Code Blue

Ad Honorem
Feb 2015
Was he a bad man?
Rules of countries are good men surrounded by other good men who find that power politics is the best way to exercise their deeply felt humanitarian urges.


Ad Honoris
Aug 2010
Welsh Marches
He wasn't a bad man in the sense of being vicious, malevolent or personally immoral in any way, but he had faults of character (in particular a mixture of subornness and weakness) that made him a very bad ruler, especially in a man who thought that he had a divine right to lay down the law for other people; I am sure that if he had just been a country gentleman, everyone would have thought him an excellent fellow, a good family man who was both well-mannered and highly cultivated.