Cambridge Historical Reader: Primary - Cambridge Press

King Charles I and his Children

When you are older, and go on a visit to the great city of London, you will, perhaps, be taken to the National Gallery, where there are pictures painted by the greatest artists in the world.

One of them shows you a noble looking man, seated on a fine horse. You will be told that this is a portrait of king Charles I, who, like his father, James I, ruled over both England and Scotland. You will be sorry to hear that this kingly looking man had a very unhappy reign, and came to a sad end.

For several years there had been many quarrels between the king and his people. Many of them thought that Charles wished to rob them of their freedom, dear to every Briton. The king felt that they wanted him to be king only in name, and to take away most of his power.

So, at last, war broke out between the king's friends, who were called Cavaliers, and the party who thought that the king was in the wrong. These were known as Roundheads, because their hair was cut short. The king's men rode on horses, wore their hair very long, and dressed in fine style.

Now, you must know that king Charles had three sons and four daughters. When the fighting began, the queen went to France, taking with her Charles and James, the two eldest sons, and three of the princesses. But, somehow or other, the little princess Elizabeth, who was about seven years old, and her baby brother, prince Henry, were left behind.

The little princess never saw her brothers and sisters again; and, during the seven years that the war lasted, these two poor children saw their father only two or three times.

In the end, the king was beaten, and fell into the hands of his enemies. They and their leader, Oliver Cromwell, then brought him to trial; and, although Charles said they had no right to try him, the court said that he was to be put to death.

Charles I and family


The day before the king was to die, his two children went to see him for the last time. Charles had always been fond of them, and so you can think what a sad meeting it was. The little princess, who was now about thirteen years old, wrote her father's last words in a book, and also a list of good books, which she was to read.

The king then took his little son, Henry, on his knee, and said to him, "They will cut off your father's head, and, perhaps, make you a king. Now, you must not be a king so long as your brothers, Charles and James, are alive."

To this, the brave little prince replied, "I will be cut in pieces first." After the king had kissed his children and given them his blessing, there came the sad parting.

The next day, king Charles was taken in front of his own palace, at Whitehall, where a scaffold had been set up. Stern soldiers guarded the way, and thousands of people filled the streets near. The king showed no fear at the last; and, when his head was struck off, a deep groan rose from the crowd.

Soon after this sad event, princess Elizabeth was sent to a castle in the Isle of Wight. Her father had been a prisoner there, some time before his death; so it was not a very happy place for the poor little princess to live in.

Carisbrooke castle


She was never well after this, indeed, she soon grew worse. One day, she was found sitting in her room, quite dead. Her cheek was resting on the open Bible, which her father had given her, and there is no doubt that the last hours of her sad little life were spent in reading the best of books. Her little brother was sent across the sea to his mother, after two years had passed.

Our good queen Victoria, who died a few years ago, was deeply touched by the sad story of this little Stewart princess. So she had a beautiful monument set up to her memory, near the spot where she died. It is the figure of a young girl with her cheek resting on an open Bible. There are some lines beneath, telling of the brave way in which the little princess bore her troubles.