Charles was born into the House of Stuart as the second son of King James VI of Scotland, but after his father inherited the English throne in 1603, he moved to England, where he spent much of the rest of his life. He became heir apparent to the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland on the death of his elder brother, Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, in 1612. An unsuccessful and unpopular attempt to marry him to the Spanish Habsburg princess Maria Anna culminated in an eight-month visit to Spain in 1623 that demonstrated the futility of the marriage negotiations.
By 1624, James was growing ill, and as a result was finding it difficult to control Parliament. By the time of his death in March 1625, Charles and the Duke of Buckingham had already assumed de facto control of the kingdom.
The official style of Charles I as king in England was “Charles, by the Grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc.” The style “of France” was only nominal, and was used by every English monarch from Edward III to George III, regardless of the amount of French territory actually controlled.
With the failure of the Spanish match, Charles and Buckingham turned their attention to France. On 1 May 1625 Charles was married by proxy to the fifteen-year-old French princess Henrietta Maria in front of the doors of the Notre Dame de Paris. The couple married in person on 13 June 1625 in Canterbury but Charles delayed the opening of his first Parliament until after the second ceremony, to forestall any opposition. Many members of the Commons were opposed to the king’s marriage to a Roman Catholic, fearing that Charles would lift restrictions on Catholic recusants and undermine the official establishment of the reformed Church of England. Although he told Parliament that he would not relax religious restrictions, he promised to do exactly that in a secret marriage treaty with his brother-in-law Louis XIII of France. Moreover, the treaty loaned to the French seven English naval ships that would be used to suppress the Protestant Huguenots at La Rochelle in September 1625. Charles was crowned on 2 February 1626 at Westminster Abbey, but without his wife at his side because she refused to participate in a Protestant religious ceremony.