The Family of Charles I by Van Dyck, circa 1854.
The Family of Charles I by Sir Anthony van Dyck, engraved by Herbert Bourne, c. 1854.
Charles I (1600-1649) married Henrietta Maria of France (1609-1669) in 1625. At first there was friction between the couple. Henrietta disliked the Duke of Buckingham who was Charles' favorite and Charles did not like Henrietta's large French entourage. He had them dismissed from court in 1626, which greatly upset his wife. However, the death of the Duke of Buckingham in 1628 led to a reconciliation and the couple became deeply devoted to one another. They had nine children together, though two of them died shortly after birth. This print of Van Dyck's 1637 painting includes Charles, Mary, James, Elizabeth, and Anne.
Charles II (1630-1685) was only eighteen when his father was executed on January 30, 1649. While he and his supporters marked that day as the start of his reign, Parliament passed an act dissolving the monarchy and establishing the English Commonwealth. Charles made several attempts to reclaim the throne, but it was not until 1660 that the monarchy was restored. Six years later the Great Fire destroyed a large portion of London, which had already been suffering from the plague. Charles and his brother James were integral in finally putting out the fire, which burned for four days. As King, Charles was a strong supporter of science and the arts; he founded the Royal Observatory and encouraged the Royal Society. There continued to be trouble regarding the rights of Catholics in the country. Charles had to dissolve parliament several times to prevent the passage of the Exclusion Bill which would have removed James from the line of succession for being Catholic.
Mary, Princess Royal (1631-1660) was the eldest daughter of Charles and Henrietta. Her father created the title Princess Royal for her, which was modeled after the French tradition of calling the eldest daughter of the king Madame Royale. Charles had hoped to betroth Mary to Balthasar Charles, but his father Phillip IV declined the match due to differences in religion. Instead she was married, at age nine, to fourteen-year-old William II of Orange in 1641. They moved to Dutch Republic the following year. In 1647 William became Stadtholder of the United Provinces following the death of his father. He held the position until 1650, when he died from smallpox just days before Mary gave birth to their son. Mary's position as the Dowager Princess of Orange was a difficult one, because she was unpopular with the people for supporting her brother's claim to the English throne. She returned to England after the restoration of Charles II, but died on Christmas Eve of that year from smallpox.
James II and VII (1633-1701) was the last Roman Catholic to rule England Scotland and Ireland. He ascended to the throne in 1685, since Charles and his wife Catherine of Braganza did not have any children. His reign was brief owing to the political struggles between James and Parliament regarding religion and the powers of the monarch. The arrests of seven protestant bishops and the birth of a son greatly increased public alarm that a Catholic dynasty would be established. To prevent the removal of James' protestant daughters Mary and Anne from the line of succession Mary's husband William III of Orange was invited to invade England. He arrived in England on November 5, 1688, and allowed his father in law to flee to France. James' departure from England was ruled an abdication of the crown, which was then offered to Mary and William. Their accession is known as the Glorious Revolution and it resulted in the passing of the English Bill of Rights.
Princess Elizabeth (1635-1650) spent half her life as a virtual prisoner of parliament. She was kind, intelligent, and mature despite her young age and poor health. When war broke out in 1642, Parliament seized the care of Elizabeth and her younger brother Henry, assigning different nobles to look after them. While Charles I was being held at Hampton Court he was permitted to visit his children, but after he escaped to the Isle of Wight, the Commons kept strict watch over them. She wrote Parliament requesting permission to live with her sister in Holland, but it was denied. On January 29, Elizabeth and Henry met with their father for the last time. Her written account of the meeting shows the strength of Charles' faith and his belief that Charles would be king after him. In 1650, she was moved to the Isle of Wight despite her protests and continued pleas to join her sister. The move would prove fatal for the princess and she was buried on the island. Her grave was marked with only her initials until 1856, when Queen Victoria ordered a proper monument be built.
Princess Anne (1637-1640) was a sickly child and did not live pass the age of three. She died from tuberculosis several months after the birth of her brother Henry. Charles had her buried next to her brother Charles James in Westminster Abbey. Four years after her death, her mother gave birth to Henrietta, the youngest of Charles' children. Henrietta was smuggled out of England by her caretaker Lady Dalkeith in 1646, reuniting her with her mother and saving her from sharing Elizabeth's fate.
Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641) was a successful and sought after Flemish Baroque painter and etcher. In 1609, he began studying with Hendrick Van Balen. Six years later Van Dyck was an independent artist. He set up a workshop with Jan Brueghal the Younger in Antwerp. In 1618, he was inducted into the painter's Guild of St. Luke, in Antwerp. Not long afterward he was working as an assistant to Peter Paul Rubens, whose influence is evident in many of Van Dyck's paintings. He travelled often, spending time in England and Italy. After returning to England in 1632, he became court painter to Charles I, receiving a pension of two hundred pounds per annum. Van Dyck painted approximately forty paintings of the monarch.