King Street, WC2E

Place Name

A popular street name with its implications of patriotism and regality, there are three in Central London alone. This one commemorates Charles I (November 19, 1600 – January 30, 1649), king when it was being laid out in 1631 by Inigo Jones as part of the development for the Soho landowner, the 4th Earl of Bedford. As to how it got its name, it was down to a judicious bit of toadying by Bedford who had gone against Charles I’s edict that there should be no new development within the capital. Having gone against the royal proclamation he was threatened with a writ by the highest court in the land, the Star Chamber, the judicial arm of the King’s Council. Bedford managed to get special dispensation to develop his Soho estate upon which he tactfully dedicated a number of streets to the monarch and his family. Among the others were nearby Henrietta Street in honour of his wife, Henrietta Maria, and Charles (today’s Wellington Street) and James Streets after their infant sons, who both later ascended the throne. Charles I was King of Great Britain and Ireland between 1625 – 1649. He was beheaded as a ‘tyrant, traitor, murderer and public enemy’ when his claims to absolute rule brought to a head the power struggle between the Crown and the dominantly Puritan Parliament. He waged costly and inconclusive foreign wars with Spain and France, for which he kept demanding money from Parliament. By invoking the doctrine of the divine right of kings, he tried to rule without Parliament, raising money by forced loans and other means. Eventually his need for money with which to go to war with Scotland led him to seek help from Parliament, which demanded increased powers in return. The long struggle that followed, marked by formal attempts to curb the king’s power, ended in deadlock and the outbreak of civil war. Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentarians defeated the Royalists and instigated Charles’s trial.




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