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What kind of king was Charles I?


Part 1

A seventeenth century spy

SHHHHH! You are a spy!

You are working for a foreign king in the late 1620s. This king is actually quite friendly towards England. He is interested in making an alliance with Charles I. He wants to check out if Charles is an effective ruler.

Your challenge is to write a report for the foreign king. You are not rich or important, but you have a friend in the archives. This means you can look at important documents to get an idea of how well Charles is ruling. The foreign king particularly wants answers to these questions.

You need to provide evidence to back up your answers. To get that evidence, look at the sources in Gallery 2: What kind of a king was Charles I?

Use this report outline to get you started.

Start writing your report

Part 2

Here are some comments a historian made about Charles I.

… Charles lacked many of the personal qualities needed by an early modern ruler. He had little skill in the art of man-management which was crucial when so much depended on the king's relations with leading politicians and noblemen. …
… he was never a confident judge of human character and tended either to go overboard in his affection for those he felt were serving him loyally, like Buckingham, or to form strong dislikes which made it very hard for him to work with certain politicians. …
… Another shortcoming … was his unwillingness to bargain and negotiate. …

(The author is Dr Richard Cust from Birmingham University. You can read the full document from which this extract is taken at:

  1. List all of Charles I's weaknesses according to this historian.
  2. Explain which sources in this gallery seem to back up Dr Cust's views.
  3. Do you think that the views of this historian are a fair assessment of Charles I?

Use this worksheet to record your answers. Open the worksheet and print it out or save it to your computer.