Say No To Charles

Charles I should not be commemorated on the calendar of the Episcopal Church of the United States.

Adding Charles Stuart to Lesser Feasts and Fasts or any other churchwide official list or calendar of saints and holy figures would be inappropriate for the church.

1) Unneeded Addition

The Episcopal Church explicitly allows for personal and local commemorations. An individual or a parish may have a connection to a saint or other holy figure that the rest of the church does not. The absence of Charles I from Lesser Feasts and Fasts in no way prohibits of interferes with the ability of members of the Society of King Charles the Martyr or others to venerate Charles as individuals or as a group.

2) Creates Unnecessary Division

Although many of the saints venerated in Lesser Feasts and Fasts were extremely controversial during their lifetime, they are all universally regarded as holy women and men by the church as a whole today. Examples include Harriet TubmanMartin Luther King, Jr., and Margaret Ward.

This is not the case for Charles I. His holiness and personal character are not universally recognized as even ‘good’ let alone as ‘saintly.’ Many Episcopalians and other Anglicans regard him as a tyrant.

I believe it is best to leave feasts of these types of figures off the churchwide calendar and to allow individual persons and localities to make their own decisions.

3) Not A Martyr

Those who claim Charles as a martyr often claim he was executed for standing up for apostolic succession – a belief that the Church of England’s authority is derived from its bishops, who ultimately derive their authority from the Biblical apostles. But this is not why he was executed. 

Charles was convicted by the High Court of Justice of attempting to “uphold in himself an unlimited and tyrannical power to rule according to his will, and to overthrow the rights and liberties of the people.”

Charles was accused of waging an illegal war against his own people and acting as a tyrant by running over constitutional parliamentary authority.

After he lost the First English Civil War, Charles made an alliance with a Scottish group known as the “engagers,” who actually *opposed* apostolic succession and the authority of bishops. He used them to start the Second English Civil War, which pitted the king against the country’s elected representatives. Thousands upon thousands of people died and millions suffered.

Parliamentary forces won the Second English Civil Wars as well and put Charles on trial. Although the trial did not follow 21st century standards of due process, Charles was treated better than most defendants of the time. He responded with contempt, interrupted the proceedings, attacked the prosecuting attorney with a cane, and refused to enter a plea.

Charles was convicted and executed.

Whether one agrees with the verdict or the method of punishment doesn’t change the fact that Charles was indicted, tried, convicted, and executed because he defied Parliament and waged the Second Civil War and Parliament interpreted that as tyrannical and murderous behavior. You can read through the documents yourself – there’s nothing in there about the episcopacy or apostolic succession.

4) Particular Inappropriateness For An American Church

Charles I is a particularly inappropriate saint for a church of the United States of America. The country was explicitly founded in opposition to the idea that guided Charles I’s life and behavior — that kings are divinely inspired and elected officials must obey them.

Across the political spectrum, Americans are by and large opposed to the idea of absolute monarchy that Charles I died for.

5) 21st Century Figures On Charles Stuart And His Death

“In his trial you have the essence of what the civil war was all about: a king who believed he was only answerable to God, and a Parliament believing that the king had acted as a man, in an improper way and he had to pay for it.” – Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer and uncle of Princes William & Harry

“The king’s trial may now be seen as the earliest precedent for trials of modern heads of state – political and military leaders like Pinochet and Milosevic, who attempt (just like Charles I) to plead sovereign immunity when arraigned for killing their own people.” – Geoffrey Robertson, Queen’s Counsel, human rights attorney

“It is difficult not to sympathize with the judgement that Charles I was the most inept monarch to have occupied the English throne since Henry VI in the fifteenth century.” – Barry Coward, professor at Birkbeck, University of London

“If Charles were to choose his first name, he would reign as King Charles III, however, royal commentators predict he will decide against this due to negative connotations surrounding the two former King Charles.” – report in The Mirror

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