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Changing Times | The history of the Charles I Bust artefact

Last week, the Novium Museum installed a fascinating new artefact in its first floor gallery.


The bust of Charles I, on loan from Chichester City Council, has a fascinating history and this week’s article will explore this in more detail.


Charles I (1600 –1649) ruled over England, Scotland and Ireland from March, 1625. During his time as King, Charles fell out with the Parliament of England about the rights and responsibilities of the monarch.


Charles believed in the divine right of kings and believed he could govern according to his own conscience and did not need the support of Parliament.


However, politicians and many subjects opposed this idea and did not like the policies introduce by the King. Charles made some very unpopular decisions, including the introduction of taxes without parliamentary consent, and many of his religious policies.


Charles ruled England for over 11 years without calling Parliament but after war broke out with Scotland, he needed the support of Parliament to raise money to fight a war. Instead, Parliament issued Charles with a list of 204 complaints about the way he was running the country.


This confrontation led to the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642 when Charles fought the armies of the English and Scottish parliaments.


Here in Chichester, there were clear differences among the population about who to support. On August 16, 1642, William Cawley, MP for Midhurst and Chichester, issued the ‘Valiant Resolution’, which declared that Chichester would support Parliament.


However, the Mayor of Chichester, Robert Exton, called upon all able-bodied men to take up arms for the king. On November15, 1642, a group loyal to the King took control of Chichester but was besieged by parliamentary forces who settled outside the city walls.


In December, the Royalist supporters surrendered and Chichester remained a parliamentary garrison until the end of the Civil War.


After his defeat in 1645, Charles I surrendered but refused to accept his captors’ demands for a constitutional monarchy. Charles was tried, convicted and executed for high treason in January, 1649.


There were 59 signatories of Charles I’s death warrant, one of whom was Chichester MP William Cawley.


When Charles I’s son, Charles II, took to the throne in 1660 a bust of Charles I was presented to the city of Chichester ‘in recognition of its role as a monarchist stronghold during the Civil War”.


Charles II also refused to grant pardons to those who had sentenced his father to death and William Cawley fled to the Netherlands, and then Switzerland, where he died in 1667.


The bust, created by Hubert Le Sueur (1580 – 1670), was created in c.1637. It is carved in gilded bronze and shows the King wearing a gold crown and chain of office. Le Sueur had been working in the King’s service since the 1630s and produced several sculptures of the monarch.


After its presentation to the city, it was placed in a niche on the City’s Market Cross. The bust remained at the Market Cross for over 300 years before being removed, after its importance was realised.


It was replaced with a fibreglass replica, created by Derek H. Rollings, of Chichester, in 1978. The original has most recently been on display at Tate Britain.


The bust is displayed alongside a copy of the Charles I death warrant, from the museum’s collections, signed by William Cawley. Cawley was born in Chichester and educated at Prebendal School.


Cawley was MP of Chichester in 1628 and Midhurst in 1640.


By Amanda Rogan, learning officer at the Novium Museum


Posted in Lifestyle.