The Lesson of Charles Stuart
Today the Church commemorates Charles Stuart, King of England (1625-1649), who was executed by Oliver Cromwell’s Puritans on this date, rather than converting to Presbyterianism and abandoning the Catholic tradition of the Church of England.
Some folks commemorate him as a martyr, but I have a bit more of a love-hate relationship with him.
- Do I think he was a good king?
- Definitely not. By all accounts, he could be arrogant and a bit of a prick.
- Could he have ruled better and not lost his head?
Without a doubt.
- Do I believe in the divine right of kings, as St. Charlie did?
Sort of, even if not as vehemently.
- Is there ever justification for killing a king, even a bad one?
- Am I glad that the Anglican Church has a strong Catholic heritage, and not just an extreme Protestant one?
At the altar this morning, I struggled with the notion of Charles the Martyr. Did I really want to celebrate his life and example? In the end, I used the second, alternative collect for a martyr:
O God, who didst bestow upon thy Saints such marvellous virtue, that they were able to stand fast, and have the victory against the world, the flesh, and the devil; Grant that we, who now commemorate thy ‘Martyr’ [it was hard to subtly get the right inflection for the air-quotes] Charles Stuart, may ever rejoice in their fellowship and also be enabled by thy grace to fight the good fight of faith and lay hold upon eternal life; through our Lord Jesus Christ, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, world without end.
When it all comes down to it, I think Charles Stuart is more of a negative example than a positive one. His legacy is a reminder that just because you’re right, doesn’t mean you’re not being a dick. And that’s a sentiment we could all stand to be reminded of from time to time.