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The Cult of King Charles the Martyr

The Cult of King Charles the Martyr

Andrew Lacey
Volume: 7
Copyright Date: 2003
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 318
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt820jm
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    The Cult of King Charles the Martyr
    Book Description:

    The cult of King Charles the Martyr did not spring into life fully formed in January 1649. Its component parts were fashioned during Charles's captivity and were readily available to preachers and eulogists in the weeks and months after the regicide. However, it was the publication of the ‘Eikon Basilike’ in early February 1649 that established the image of Charles as a suffering, innocent king, walking in the footsteps of his Saviour to his own Calvary at Whitehall. The figure of the martyr and the shared set of images and beliefs surrounding him contributed to the survival of royalism and Anglicanism during the years of exile. With the Restoration the cult was given official status by the annexing of the Office for the 30th January in the ‘Book of Common Prayer’ in 1662. The political theology underpinning the cult and a particular historiography of the Civil Wars were presented as the only orthodox reading of these events. Yet from the Exclusion Crisis onwards dissonant voices were heard challenging the orthodox interpretation. In these circumstances the cult began to fragment between those who retained the political theology of the 1650s and those who sought to adapt the cult to the changing political and dynastic circumstances of 1688 and 1714. This is the first study to deal exclusively with the cult and takes the story up until 1859, the year in which the Office for the 30th January was removed from the ‘Book of Common Prayer’. Apart from discussing the origins of the cult in war, revolution and defeat it also reveals the extent to which political debate in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries was conducted in terms of the Civil Wars. ANDREW LACEY is currently Special Collections Librarian, University of Leicester, and College Librarian, Trinity Hall, Cambridge.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-060-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of illustrations
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-3)

    It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a historian of the English Revolution in possession of a good mind has tended to study the Roundheads rather than the Cavaliers.¹ Compared to the groaning shelves of monographs, pamphlets and articles dealing with almost every aspect of the Parliamentary cause and its implications, the work on the Royalists – with the exception of the king himself – has, until very recently, been sparse and patchy and some of the material that does exist is written from an obviously hostile perspective. Yet one of the most telling features of this period is not so much...

  6. Chapter One THE ROYAL ACTOR
    (pp. 4-17)

    That memorable scene in 1649, on a January day so cold that the lake in St James’s Park had frozen over, stands as one of the climactic events in British history. It was the culmination of a decade of war and strife throughout the British Isles; a time of division between parties, factions, friends and within families; a time of disappointed hopes and failed ambitions. For three years Parliamentarians and soldiers, victorious on the battlefield, had endeavoured in vain to reach a settlement with the king, until, to cut the Gordian knot of their failure, the Army and its Parliamentary...

  7. Chapter Two HABEAS CORPUS: THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE CULT BEFORE 1649
    (pp. 18-48)

    The cult of Charles the martyr did not spring into life fully formed in January 1649. On the contrary, the component parts of the cult were known and available to the eulogists and preachers well before the execution obligingly provided them with a body. Perhaps more importantly, there was a substantial part of the nation who by 1647–8 were ready to receive sympathetic images of Charles and who could identify their hopes and fears with the figure of the defeated king. Although we are familiar with the ‘cult of personality’, it is impossible to speak of a martyr cult...

  8. Chapter Three BY THE RIVERS OF BABYLON: THE CULT IN EXILE
    (pp. 49-75)

    Thomas Fuller was busy with his Worthies of England when he heard the news that Charles was to be tried for his life, at which, so his biographer records,

    such an amazement struck the loyal pious doctor when he first heard of that execrable design intended against the King’s person, and saw the villainy proceed so uncontrollably, that he not only surceased, but resolved to abandon ‘that luckless work’, as he was then pleased to call it. ‘For what shall I write’ said he, ‘of the worthies of England, when this horrid act will bring such an infamy upon the...

  9. Chapter Four IN VERBO TUO SPES MEA: FASHIONING THE ROYAL MARTYR
    (pp. 76-128)

    One of the most striking characteristics of the cult was its literary nature. We have looked briefly in Chapter two at the way in which Charles presented himself and his cause through the spoken and written word during the 1640s, and after the regicide the word was to become the principal means by which individuals experienced the cult. The martyr was mediated through a reading of the Eikon Basilike, the elegies and printed sermons, or, after 1660, through hearing the words of the 30 January Office and the inevitable sermon. The literary nature of the cult is underlined by the...

  10. Chapter Five THE RETURN TO ZION: THE CULT AND THE RESTORED MONARCHY
    (pp. 129-171)

    The providential return of Charles II and the establishment of an episcopal and Arminian Church of England must indeed have seemed like a return to Zion after eleven years in the wilderness. Everything that the royal martyr had died for and Anglican Royalists had worked and prayed for in exile seemed to have been accomplished by 1662, and we enter the heyday of the cult, when each 30 January Anglican pulpits resounded with praise of the martyr and curses against those who had brought such a virtuous prince to his death. Yet the period also witnessed the first public attacks...

  11. Chapter Six IRRELIGIOUS RANTS AND CIVIL SEDITIONS: THE CULT IN ‘THE AGE OF PARTY’
    (pp. 172-211)

    On Friday 18 May 1688 six bishops presented a petition drawn up by themselves and William Sancroft, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to James II, requesting that he withdraw his order to have the Declaration for Liberty of Conscience read in churches on the following Sunday. The petition illustrates the level of tension which had developed between James and the Church of England over his attempts to ease the burden on his Catholic co-religionists since his coronation three years earlier. Then the Anglican hierarchy had been loud in their support for their legitimate king and his coronation was seen as the...

  12. Chapter Seven A PATTERN OF RELIGION AND VIRTUE: THE CONSERVATIVE MARTYR
    (pp. 212-235)

    One of Thomas Bradbury’s claims to fame is that he was one of the first publicly to proclaim George I in August 1714; he was in the middle of a sermon when he was alerted to the fact of Queen Anne’s death by a prearranged signal. It would be easy at this point to emphasise the triumph of Bradbury over Milbourne, the eclipse of the Tories, and the decline of the traditional political theology of the cult, and to present a picture of ‘the long eighteenth century’ as an age fundamentally antipathetic to the cult. But recent work on the...

  13. Chapter Eight OUR OWN, OUR ROYAL SAINT
    (pp. 236-251)

    The Church Times for 23 January 1998 included in its classified section five notices for services in honour of King Charles the martyr. Two notices were from the Royal Martyr Church Union and the Society of King Charles the Martyr, the principal Anglican societies dedicated to preserving the memory of the king and his place in the Calendar. Two notices were from churches of the ‘Traditional Anglican Church’, a group which separated from the Church of England over the ordination of women. The other notice, from the church of St Gabriel, Warwick Square, Pimlico, advertised a Solemn Eucharist for 30...

  14. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 252-302)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 303-312)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 313-313)