King Charles I of England

King Charles I

The portraits in the Dining room at Highclere tell the story of the English Civil War. The most magnificent painting, dominating the room, is that of Charles l on horseback at the gates of Paris by Anthony van Dyck. Painted around 1633, there is a wealth of detail, largely symbolic, in the drama of the scene. It projects the image of a wise leader, a powerful warrior and one who embodies the divine right to rule. In reality, he was, perhaps, not so wise. He failed to listen and compromise, catapulted England into civil war and sixteen years later became the first and only English King to be executed by his subjects.


Thereafter, executive power, the ability to collect taxes and raise an army, became separated from the crown.  Today the UK retains a constitutional monarchy which the English writer, Walter Bagehot (a weekend guest at Highclere Castle), considered allowed the King or Queen the right to be consulted, the right to encourage and the right to warn but no more. The Judicature Act and, later, the creation of a Supreme Court sought to separate the judiciary from politics. Most of us want to think we can appeal to some sort of fairness in the country in which we live, whatever our politics.

If Charles I were able to appear by magic out of his portrait today, he would find all the same challenges present. Plus ça change – as the French say.  Tragic civil wars tear into life in the Middle East, whilst arguments about executive powers and their limitations, whether in Europe or in the USA, create uncertainty and acrimony. Meanwhile, dictators roll up money, army, judiciary and image into their own person destroying all checks and balances.


Of course, people left Europe during the English civil war seeking refuge in the New World, crossing the Atlantic Ocean, hoping for stability of property, morality, law and peace. In fact, Catherine, the 6th Countess of Carnarvon’s ancestors, made their way to Virginia at this time. I hope they would be amused that some of their descendants are back here and sitting under the second largest portrait in this Dining room, which was completed by Gilbert Stuart who famously painted George Washington. In an uncertain angry world, it is sometimes useful to look backwards and remember George Washington’s words: “Observe good faith and justice toward all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all”.

25 Responses to “King Charles I of England”
  1. Jeffery Sewell says:

    Dear Lady Carnarvon,
    You have chosen a wonderful (and powerful) quote from George Washington. So very appropriate to these (so-called) modern times.
    The portraits that adorn Highclere’s dining room are magnificent. The portrait of Charles 1 with his riding master, Pierre Antoine Bourdin is a masterpiece. (One might say that it also served as a form of propaganda for the King at that time.)
    It is my understanding that in 1603 Bourdin was sent by the King of France to present the young Prince of Wales – namely, Charles’ elder brother, Henry – with a gift of 6 horses. What I find remarkable is that Bourdin remained in Britain in the service of the young Henry and then Charles. From van Dyck’s painting, Bourdin obviously remained in the service of Charles.
    Thank you for sharing such wonderful pieces of art and history with us.
    Following your “lead”, I thought it appropriate to conclude this post with another quote from George Washington:
    “I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.”
    Best wishes,
    Jeffery Sewell

  2. Linda Spencer says:

    When my cousin Karen and I loved touring a Highclere. The staff were wonderful. The very last room was of the dining room. As I came thru the door I made eye contact with Charles I ! I love England! My grandmother left England for the US. I visit many cousins in England.

  3. Carol Sawyer says:

    Appropriate quote from George Washington on our presidential election today !!

  4. Jane Franks says:

    I love that quote from George Washington! And I love your blog; your sense of history and the stability of great houses like yours provide; giving perspective to all of us on both sides of the Atlantic. Thank you so much for this!

  5. ann says:

    As our election cycle ends today, I anxiously, along with all other Americans, await the outcome of what has been a brutal and ugly campaign. And oh how I yearn for a George Washington to lead us again. I enjoyed your brief history lesson, for it reminded me of why own ancestors left England on the Mayflower. I always enjoy reading about Highclere with hopes of visiting again someday. I have traveled England twice, but twice is not enough. So I will continue to enjoy reading about your life at the castle and the English way.

    • Linda Olds says:

      George Washington was a great first President of the U. S., but I doubt that you would be happy with his leadership in these modern times. He would have thought it ridiculous for women to vote, and a woman would not have been able to run for the presidency.
      During his term in office, the new country, which was previously protected by being under Britain’s wing, was forced to pay tribute to the Barbary pirates, who would otherwise capture merchant ships and hold captives as slaves. President Jefferson had to fight the Barbary pirates to stop this practice. So peace was not something easily come by even back then.

  6. Glen Jansen says:

    A copy of King Charles portrait was displayed at our grammar school in Worcestershire – King Charles Grammar, so I was delighted to see where the original is kept. I write this from the depths of New Zealand, as I am packing to return to the UK after an expat absence of nearly 30 years. I am thrilled to be returning to my mother country, and visiting Highclere with my parents will be on my to do list. Kind regards, Glen.

    • Sarah Taylor says:

      Good morning Glen,

      Good to hear that you are returning to the mother country after so many years. I am curious to know why your family has decided to return from such a beautiful and vast country as New Zealand?

      Personally having spent a number of years living in South Australia during my adult life, myself and my husband made the difficult decision last year to come back to the UK and I appreciate it is not easy and a lot of upheaval. For us it was for family reasons we returned as all our family and many close friends are here and were very pleased to welcome us back. I do not regret the move, although I really do miss the spectacular scenery, open space and wildlife that you only get in the southern hemisphere!

    • Glen Jansen says:

      Hello Sarah,

      Thank you for talking the time to reply to my earlier comment.

      Returning to the UK from New Zealand isn’t an easy decision, but primarily it is to spend time with my parents who are now in their 80s. I am thrilled at being able to enjoy quality time with them for hopefully a few more years. My children are now grown up and established in their respective careers (my daughter sings for New Zealand Opera & my son manages a successful retail fashion business), so I have total freedom to travel where and when I choose.

      Allied to that though, is the fact that I will certainly not miss the recent bout of earthquakes. 20,000 over 5 years, of which 2,000 took place in the last 7 days. So I am also really looking forward to experiencing some geological stability.

      I hope you and your family have a simply wonderful Xmas.

      Kind regards,


  7. Maria Augusta Pinheiro says:


  8. Paula says:

    How very appropriate to come home after voting in our Presidential elections and to read this quote from George Washington . “Peace and harmony with all” is my prayer today as we await the outcome of this very contentious race.

  9. What gorgeous artwork! And what goes around, comes around! I loved this article that america should consider a monarchy!!! ha ha!!! Maybe we should! We certainly haven’t solved the world’s problems with a president!!!

  10. David says:

    How amazing it must be to get up from your dining room table and reach back in history almost 400 years. And then to realize that our dream of peace and harmony is still out there. I love the way that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow expresses this in his Christmas Carol ” I heard the bells on Christmas Day”: And in despair I bowed my head
    “There is no peace on earth’ I said
    ” For hate is strong and mocks the song
    of peace on earth, good will to men.
    Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
    “God is not dead nor does He sleep;
    the wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
    With peace on earth, good will to men”

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful writings and your very special home with us.

  11. Rick Lobs says:

    My ancestor, Sir Gregory Clement, Knight from Kent, was one of the Regicides that signed the dearth warrant for King Charles I. He received his deserts from the son of Charles I, Charles II. He ordered that Sir Gregory be hung-drawn-and quartered. A most unpleasant way to exit this reality.

  12. Lori says:

    Once again you have amazed me with your blogs.The paintings are absolutely gorgeous.By far greater than my paintings.The unfortunate fate of Charles 1st was enough to get a mental picture of what he was thinking before his untimely demise.Thank you again for sharing your own home with me, as well as the rest of your readers.

  13. Sandy Lee says:

    This is a well put and timely reminder of what corrupt power can do. Thank you for your thoughts and message of hope.

  14. Carmen Rendon says:

    Dear Lady C,
    I so enjoy reading your blog! Its a wonderful reminder of my trip to Highclere! I do remember that portrait well. It has such a presence & I really liked it. I didn’t know the history of Charles I, & was saddened by it. Thank you for that wonderful quote by our 1st President! So appropriate for today, as we awake to the identity of our 45th President! God bless America! May God also bless England, our wonderful friends!


  15. susanna says:

    Thank you for your blog. I find it a refuge from the cruel, cold world I have suddenly woken up to. Love the historical articles about the Castle. Thanks so very much.

  16. Bob Holt says:

    Born and raised in the USA I have always had a special heart for the UK as my grandfather was born in Manchester. I have been watching Downton Abby and absolutely love your home. I am hoping to one day visit it. Thank you for your blog as it allows me to enter your home remotely and enjoy it’s wonders. God bless you and yours.

  17. Jean says:

    I feel awestruck now looking at these paintings feeling the personality of these real people of your heritage.

  18. Jean says:

    “For All”. We must avoid being hawk-eyed and pigeon holed. As much as one group clamors for its rights and justice it must not be at the expense of another whose view may be opposite. Here in the USA one political party has dominated civil rights to the point of diminishing the rights of all for the clamor of a few. The majority of voice in this country is much broader than what is portrayed publicly – such as was proven by our inaccurate pollsters. We have become ashamedly a self centered spoiled brat society whining for our own way regardless of its impact on our neighbor. Unable to compromise, unable to tolerate, unable to be civil, unable to mind one’s own business, unable to respect, unable to honor – there will never be peace.

  19. David Chu says:

    Dear Lady Carnarvon,
    Thank you for your fascinating post about some of the important art works at Highclere.
    I had the pleasure of visiting in the summer of 2015.
    I was very interested to read that The Carnarvons once had a Leonardo Da Vinci but further information doesn’t seem to be available.
    It would be great to hear more about this at some point.
    All the best from Australia.
    David Chu

  20. Good Morning Lady Carnarvon.
    I’ve just now had the chance to read your interesting post. Thank you for the wonderful history lesson! And I never knew there was a king beheaded by his own people!

    The portraits are wonderful! Imagine having all that artwork right at hand. That, in itself, is a pictoral history lesson! If it were me, I’d go picture by picture, learning the history of each one. They are simply grand!

    I’m sure our Founding Fathers must be spinning in their graves seeing all this sorry excuse for a governmental system this has become. The US has embarassed itself and showed that we are no example to be followed. Perhaps we SHOULD give our country back to the British Monarchy. Can’t do any worse than it is now.

    Linda Whitworth

  21. Louise says:

    Such an interesting time to read about. England’s past, America’s future and it seems Australia is about to embark on the Republican debate once again. Life is never dull.

    Merry Christmas and all the best for another new and eventful new year

    Victoria Australa

Leave A Comment

Copyright 2017 Lady Carnarvon · RSS Feed · Website Design by MAXX Design