22nd August 1642. Martyr for a Cause?

King Charles I is the only formally Canonised Saint of the Church of England, but remembered more for a belief stemming from his father’s notion of  The Divine Right of Kings.(1) 

Lead statue at St Margaret's Westminster, donated by Society of King Charles 1956.

Lead statue at St Margaret’s Westminster, donated by Society of King Charles 1956.

When Charles was executed in 1649, he was seen more than a failed political leader, as popular books such as the Eikon Basilike, created the idea that he was martyred in defence of the Church. At the Restoration in 1660, this was not an idea that anyone wished to discourage.

The end-game for Charles I arrived Today in 1642, when he declared war on Parliament, by raising his Standard at Nottingham.

The first Civil-War (1642-46) was inevitable after the King’s rejection in June 1642, of Parliament’s demands for reform (the 19 Propositions), and his withdrawal from London. He then set up Court in Oxford.

On June 24th 1646 the Royalist Army marched out of Oxford, after Cromwell had been installed as Chancellor in the April.(2)

Statue of Cromwell outside parliament, by Sir Hamo Thorneycroft 1899.

Statue of Cromwell outside Parliament, by Sir Hamo Thorneycroft 1899.

The power of the 1640 Long Parliament was fast declining, as the Parliamentary New Model Army increased, and in 1648 ‘Pride’s Purge’, got rid of any not ’Grandees or Independents’, whom the Army supported, as against Anglicans, Catholics and Presbyterians. (3).

The final act, for Charles, was the High Court of Justice condemned the King to death in 1649 which took place before the (still present) Banqueting Hall in Whitehall.(4)

The irony of the situation is that if Charles’ older brother, the accomplished Henry had lived, Charles would never have succeeded: another ‘might haves’ of history!

The future in 1660, after the Cromwell’s Protectorate, now lay with Charles II, based on new contractual foundations: ‘Divine Right’ was cast into history.

(1) This notion had been laid down by James I (VI of Scotland), ‘True Law of free Monarchy’ published in  1598, seeing the monarchy as an extension of the Apostolic Succession.

(2) The Mint was based at New Inn Hall later St Peter’s College.

Queen Henrietta Maria lived at Merton (the only college to support the Parliamentary forces (which had removed to London), whilst the King resided at Christ Church, where Parliament was held in Great Hall.

The citizenry of Oxford was anti-Royalist, but the University remained loyal.

(3) The term Anglican was coined in 1635 to describe the Church of England as opposed from the Church of Rome.(Ref: Christopher Howse, Sacred Mysteries, Daily Telegraph, 6.7.2013.

(4) One backer of Charles’ execution was John Milton who spent ten years as Cromwell’s Latin Secretary, composing his despatches to foreign governments and not surprisingly at the Restoration he was arrested and some of his writings were burned.

However he survived to write ‘Paradise Lost’.

It was Milton commissioned by Parliament to write a riposte to the Eikon Basilike (Royal Portrait) supposedly written by Charles, as a treatise on Monarchy.

The Book published on 9th February 1649 was disapproved in the Protectorate and Restoration, but went through 36 editions in 1649.


An urban myth, probably promulgated by guides, says that Cromwell facing the bust of Charles, is looking down as if to avoid eye-contact. However dating of the monuments obviously disproves this. 


Ref: wikipedia.org/Image of cromwell.

Ref: ianvisits.co.uk/myth-of-king-charles-opposite-parliament/Image of Charles.


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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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