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Charles I

Charles I (r. 1625-49) was a poor statesman whose deep belief in the divine right of kings was adhered to with a stubbornness that eventually led him to the scaffold. His single greatest accomplishment, his art collection, was assembled in the service of that ideal notion of kingship and it was not allowed to stand as his memorial. Charles managed the kingdom badly, was a poor diplomat and politician, provided unsound leadership, and refused to recognize the implacable nature of changes in society. The arena in which he did excel was that of display. Despite the rebellions, the civil wars, the foreign wars, the struggles with Parliament, and, most of all, the stricken economy, Charles' reign was marked by splendid entertainments, costly show, and the assembling of one of the finest art collections in Europe. When added to the perception of Charles' popish tendencies, his Catholic wife, his intransigence and mismanagement, and the harsh economic times the expenditure of substantial amounts for such frivolous purposes added fuel to the flames of opposition. Charles, who was a connoisseur as well as a spendthrift, managed to assemble, in a very short time, a collection of High Renaissance, antique, and Baroque art that surpassed every collection in overall quality. Despite the breakup of the collection a great deal is known about its contents because Charles had employed what was, in effect, the first curator and because the records of the Commonwealth sale have survived. Thus it is possible to see how, despite its short life, Charles' accumulation of art was the high point of seventeenth-century collecting.

Charles, the second son of James I and Anne of Denmark, was not raised to be king. His elder brother Henry, Prince of Wales died in 1612, however, and Charles' prospects were changed forever. He was a shy boy who had admired Henry immensely and emulated him in both his interest in art and his total belief in the divine ...

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Charles I. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 10:23, November 29, 2021, from