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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.

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  1. jondrowe posted this
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