March 27th 1625: Charles I becomes King
On this day in 1625, Charles I became King of England, Scotland and Ireland. He succeeded to the throne upon the death of his father King James I. Charles and his father believed in the divine right of kings to absolute rule. This caused Charles’s struggle for power with Parliament and resentment among his subjects for his seemingly tyrannical actions like taxing without the consent of Parliament and interfering with churches. The English Civil War broke out in the last years of his reign, which pitted the crown against Parliament. Charles was captured by the Parliamentarians and executed for high treason in 1649. The monarchy was then abolished but returned in 1660 with Charles’s son in power.
January 31st 1606: Guy Fawkes executed for the Gunpowder Plot
On this day in 1606, Guy Fawkes (or Guido Fawkes) was executed for plotting against the British Parliament and King James I. Fawkes and his gang planned to assassinate the King and restore a Catholic monarch by blowing up the House of Lords during the State Opening of Parliament, attended by the monarch. The group leased a cellar beneath the House of Lords and Fawkes stockpiled gunpowder there. The authorities were alerted by an anonymous letter, and arrested Fawkes on 5th November 1605, who was questioned and tortured and finally revealed their plans. Fawkes was hanged on 31st January. His failure has been commemorated in England ever since when every 5th November, people gather to burn his effigy and observe a fireworks display. He is also remembered through the Guy Fawkes masks worn by political protestors, most recently the Occupy movement and the group ‘Anonymous’.
October 29th 1618: Sir Walter Raleigh executed
On this day in 1618, English explorer Sir Walter Raleigh was beheaded. Raleigh is best known for his exploration of North America which paved the way for English colonisation. In 1594 set off to find the fabled ‘City of Gold’ in South America and his writings contributed to the legend of ‘El Dorado’. Despite having been knighted by Queen Elizabeth I in 1585, Raleigh was not liked by James I and was imprisoned in the Tower of London for alleged conspiracy against the King and executed.