Friday, January 30, 2015

King Charles the Martyr - the tract written by Father Donald Hole

Icon of Charles, from St Andrewes Press

This tract was published in 1941 by The Society of Our Lady of Walsingham, Walsingham, Norfolk {U.K.], and printed by The Southern Post, Ltd., 40 Fleet Street, London E.C. 4.

We are all familiar with the fascinating romance and poignant tragedy associated with the House of Stuart in connection with our country’s history. It has formed the basis of countless novels and songs and plays. The political history of the XVII Century—the struggle between King and Parliament—has given occasion to much controversy into which it is needless to enter here. Broadly speaking, it was the clash between the growth of parliamentary government and the royal despotism formerly exercised by the Plantagenet and Tudor monarchies. But anyone who imagines that the parliamentary cause stood either for democracy or for religious toleration is suffering from a strange delusion. The Parliament of those days— and indeed for long afterwards—was in no way representative of the English nation or of the common people. It represented the aristocracy, the squirearchy, and the commercial classes who had grown rich and powerful out of the “great pillage” of the Church’s property which had taken place in the previous Century, and who had founded great families upon the spoils of the monasteries. That good eventually came out of evil, and that the constitutional monarchy which was gradually evolved through the XVIII and XIX Centuries, together with a more adequate representation of the people, has been on the whole a great advantage, we may readily admit. But that does not alter the fact that the civil war of 16y42 was a war of religion quite as much as it was a war of politics. Politically it resulted, not in parliamentary government, but in military despotism. From a religious point of view it resulted in the temporary triumph of that foreign Protestantism which had been gradually growing in strength through the previous reigns, and, very nearly, in the total destruction of the Church of England. Few English churchmen at the present day seem to realize that, but for the courage and consistency of one man, who died a martyr’s death on 30thJanuary, 1649, the Church of England would no longer exist. There would be no Archbishop of Canterbury on the throne of Saint Augustine, no Bishops, no Dean of Saint Paul’s, no canons, archdeacons, rectors or vicars, and even Bishop Barnes would be unable to draw the emoluments of the see of Birmingham.

It has been sagely remarked that “Christian Monarchy was last achieved here by Charles I” (in a leading article of the Tablet for 28 September 1940). That, of course, does not mean that no subsequent sovereign has been sincerely attached to the Christian religion; it means that Charles was the last English monarch who realized, and attempted to put into practice, the idea of “Christian Kingship” as understood throughout the middle ages. We must try to understand what that was.

The “Christian King” was the “eldest son of the Church”, subject to her laws in all spiritual matters, but bound by his office to defend her rights, and to give to her judgments the sanctions of secular law. He could exercise no spiritual function or jurisdiction, yet he was something more than a mere layman. He was a “persona mixta”—and this was symbolized by the ceremonies of his coronation. He was clothed in Episcopal garments—stole and dalmatic and cope—and he was anointed with holy oil. It gave him, moreover, both the right and the duty to exercise a certain supervision over the administration of ecclesiastical affairs, and was the only justification of his preponderating influence in the appointment of bishops. “Sir Henry Watton, diplomatist, ecclesiastic, and poet, wrote a ‘panegerick’ of his master which happily expressed what churchmen thought and courtiers knew about their young king eight years before. ‘When you had assumed the crown before all other things there was resplendent in you a religious mind, the support of kingdoms, and joy of good men. The Chapel Royal was never more in order. The number of eminent divines daily increased. Sermons in no age more frequented, in none more learned. No execration rashly proceeded from your mouth. Your ears abhorred not only any wanton but even the least sordid word!!. . . From first to last the King remained a devoted son of the Church.” (W. H. Hutton, A History of the English Church, p. 4)

The evening before his coronation was spent in religious exercises, when Laud (acting Dean of Westminster) instructed him in his duties and how to prepare for them. Laud became his confessor, and retained that office until his death, when it passed to Bishop Juxon. (Ibid., p. 4)

Charles exercised the utmost care in the choice of bishops and in other ecclesiastical appointments which came within his patronage, and he took care that those whom he appointed should realize their duties. Laud records how in 1626 he “chid” them all “that in this time of Parliament we were silent in the cause of the Church and did not make known to him what might be useful and beneficial to the Church, professing himself ready to promote the cause of the Church”. (Hutton, Hist. Eng. CH., p. 25)

Hutton remarks in this connection that Charles was “incurably Erastian”, but this charge is certainly not justified. Erastus, a German heretic of the XVI Century, taught that the Church’s function was merely to persuade and exhort, and that it had no power to enforce its teaching even by excommunication; the punishment of all ecclesiastical offences being the exclusive province of the civil a=magistrate. Charles, on the contrary, recognized most clearly the Church’s magisterium and did all he could to support the bishops in the exercise of it. It was Parliament, not the King, that was “incurably Erastian” in its claim to decide questions of theology and Church discipline, and it was on this very ground that the King and Parliament came into collision long before the political controversy developed. Yet underlying this charge of Erastianism there is a certain truth. The fact is that Charles’s position as a “Christian King” was hampered and to some extent vitiated, by something which he had inherited, and for which he was not responsible. He ascended the throne as the “Supreme Governor of the Church of England”. This “Royal Supremacy”, initiated by Henry VIII and reasserted by Elizabeth, was in fact a caricature of “Christian Kingship”.

For the first thousand years of her history the Church of England had claimed to form a part of the Catholic Church, not only on the ground of holding the Catholic faith and possessing the Apostolic Ministry, but as being included in the administrative unity of the Church Universal, which found its centre and focus at Rome. The Church of England had never claimed to be an independent ecclesiastical entity, but only to consist of two provinces of the church, which looked to the Chief Bishop of Christendom as their spiritual Head. Appeals lay to Rome from the English ecclesiastical courts which which administered the Canon Law common to the whole Church. The breach between England and Rome effected by King Henry VIII did not arise out of any theological difference, but from purely personal reasons. Henry wanted the Pope to grand him a divorce from his lawful wife, and the Pope refused. In order to attain his purpose the King first obtained complete control of the ecclesiastical machinery, and then, by Act of Parliament, forced his subjects to repudiate all papal authority and to accept him as Supreme Head of the Church of England In the picturesque language of Nicholes Harpesfield, he “cut off the head of Saint Peter and put it upon his own shoulders, an ugly sight to beholde”. For the Canon Law of the Universal Church was substituted the ecclesiastical law of Parliament and royal injunctions and letters patent.

Under Edward VI the Royal Supremacy was used to force upon the Church a new mode of worship and to foster the growth of foreign Protestantism, subsequently known as Puritanism. It was a grim nemesis, that Parliament, which had been the subservient tool in the hands of the Tudor monarchy, for establishing the Royal Supremacy over the Church, should in the following Century compass the death of the Church’s “Supreme Governor” for defending the Church’s faith and worship. Charles’s attempt to realize the ideal of “Christian Kingship” was hindered, not helped, by the fact that he was by statute law the “Supreme Governor of the Church of England”.

In connection with this we must consider his attitude with regard to Rome. By the time that he ascended the throne the “Roman Question” had become a political issue rather than a theological one, very largely through the misguided action of various Popes. Under Elizabeth, ‘popery’ had become associated with Spanish domination, and English nationalism rose up in protest against it. “Popish recusants” were unjustly accused of being disloyal to the English Crown, a charge which they disproved most effectively by dying in defence of the Crown and giving up all their temporal goods in the royal cause. It is true that there was a controversy between Anglican and Roman writers, exemplified in the famous dispute between Archbishop Laud and the Jesuit, Fisher; but if we study that controversy, it becomes clear that the points at issue were quite capable of reconciliation. They referred chiefly to current teaching and popular abuses common among Roman Catholics of that day, but not taught authoritatively by the Roman Church; of the exact meaning of the term “transubstantiation”; and of the papal claim to political domination. It must never be forgotten that the learned Franciscan, Christopher Davenport (known in Religion as “Sancta Clara”), chaplain to Queen Henrietta Maria, anticipated J. H. Newman and Bishop Forbes by 200 years, in showing that the XXXIX articles were quite capable of being reconciled with the teaching of the Council of Trent.

When King Charles and Archbishop Laud called themselves “Protestants”, they did not mean that they protested against the Catholic Religion, but that they protested against certain abuses which they believed to be current among Roman Catholics of that day, and against certain papal claims which they believed to be inconsistent with the national political independence.

The Caroline Divines did not protest against the Pope’s spiritual supremacy. Thus, Bramhall, Archbishop of Armagh, enumerates the papal power which the Church of England does not acknowledge:

(1) Power to dispense the law of the land;

(2) Judiciary power in respect of property;

(3) Legislative power indictating civil laws;

(4) Powers of patronage in disposing of English benefices;

(5) The exorbitant fees claimed by papal courts in the matter of granting dispensations, licences, etc.

There is not one word against the spiritual supremacy of the Pope. (Oxford Movement Centenary Tractates, No. VI, p. 20)

Several times during the XVII Century, a reconciliation between England and Rome, on the acceptance of the Pope’s spiritual Supremacy, came within measurable distance. King James I in a speech before Parliament said: “I acknowledge the Church of Rome to be our Mother Church.” In the oath taken at his coronation he pointedly refused to state “That the Pope hath no power to excommunicate me”, substituting the words “That no excommunication of the Pope can warrant my subjects to practice against my Person or State”. He even wrote to Pope Paul V offering to recognize his spiritual primacy and to reunite the English Church with Rome on condition only of his disclaiming political sovereignty over kings. The offer, however, was rejected. (ibid.)

King Charles I told Panzani, the envoy of Pope Urban VIII, “that he would willingly have parted with one of his hands, rather than such a schism (i.e., between England and Rome) should ever have happened. (ibid., p. 6) Sir Francis Windebank, a secretary of state, said to Panzani: “If we had neither Jesuits nor Puritans in England I am confident that union might easily be effected” (ibid., p. 7), and that “all moderate men in Church and State thirsted after reunion”.

From all this we can gather King Charles’s attitude towards religion. His first collision with Parliament was on this very point. Richard Montague, a Canon of Windsor, wrote a pamphlet in 1624 which we should consider a very moderate expression of Anglicanism. He denied that the Church of Rome was apostate, though admitting that she was corrupt. He asserts the truth of the Real Presence, while rejecting transubstantiation. He asserts the power of Absolution though denying that confession was in all cases necessary. He defends the use of Images without worshipping or adoring them. This pamphlet was denounced in the House of Commons and an appeal was made by Parliament to the Archbishop of Canterbury (Abbot). The Archbishop was himself a Puritan, and advised Montague to revise his opinions, instead of which Montague appealed to the King. James, on reading the pamphlet, exclaimed: “If this is popery, so am I a papist”. Montague them presented a new pamphlet entitled Appello Cæsarem. The whole incident is eloquent of the confusion of the times. What right had Parliament to take cognizance of doctrinal questions? The answer is that the Tudor sovereigns had used Parliament for that very purpose. The Royal Supremacy itself stood upon an Act of Parliament. Now Parliament was taking the bit between its teeth and exercising its power independently of the King. If Parliament had made the King “Supreme Governor of the Church of England”, why should not Parliament take that supreme government into its own hands?

Montague, in his Appello Cæsarem, appealed from Parliament and from the Archbishop of Canterbury to the King—thereby acknowledging the Cæsaro-papalism introduced by Henry VIII. James, however, died before the book was published, and Montague had written another book in which he upheld the Invocation of Saints.

On 7 July 1625, Parliament decided to impeach him, and forthwith put him into prison. Charles, who had now ascended the throne, intimated to the House of Commons that “what had been there said and resolved without consulting him in the case, was not pleasing to him”, and he gave practical effect to his displeasure by making Montague (still in prison) one of his Royal Chaplains.

He did not, however, accept the “appeal to Cæsar”. He, perfectly correctly, referred the case to a committee of bishops—Montaigne (London), Neile (Durham), Andrewes (Winchester), and Laud (St. Davids). They reported that Montague’s book contained nothing but what was in their opinion the doctrine of the Church of England. The proceedings in Parliament were squashed, and in 1628 Charles promoted Montague to the see of Chichester. On the death of Abbot in 1633 he made Laud Archbishop of Canterbury.

Hutton remarks that the doctrine of the “Divine Right of Kings” and the duty of non-resistance, so clear to the Cavaliers of the XVII Century, was “the answer of English Controversialists to the claim of the Papacy”. It was certainly something very different from the doctrine of “Christian Kingship”. The Christian King was “the Lord’s Anointed” because of his sacring by the Church, but he had no “right divine to govern wrong”. In theory at any rate, the highest arbiter of justice and equity was the Universal Church speaking through the Chief Bishop of Christendom. Again and again, as in the case of Saint Anselm and Saint Thomas of Canterbury, the Papacy had been the only power that could protect the subject from royal tyranny and injustice. When England under Henry VIII became separated from the rest of Christendom, a new theory of kingship had to be sought, and it was found in the theory of “Divine Right”—the omnipotence of the king as king.

Charles, in spite of some unwise support given to the advocates of Divine Right, honestly attempted to govern as a Christian King. He realized most profoundly that he was the servant of the Church, not its master—that it was his duty not to make laws for the Church, but to see that the Church’s laws were carried out. In this he found a loyal supporter and a ready instrument in Archbishop Laud.

“There was no department of Church life”, says Wakeman, “which his energy did not enliven, no recess too dark for his eyes to penetrate. A visitation of his province, carried out by his Vicar General in 1633-1636, did much to remove the outward signs of Puritan nonconformity. The use of the surplice was enforced, kneeling at the reception of Communion enjoined, the Holy Table moved from the body of the church to the east end, placed altar-wise along the east wall, and railed in to preserve it from desecration.

Churchwardens were obliged to repair the church fabrics, and Cathedral chapters to observe their own statutes. The court of High Commission under Laud’s presidency kept a vigilant guard over the morals of the nation and the rights of the church. . . . The country squire who had seized part of the glebe or churchyard to round off his estate . . . the man of position who was guilty of incest, the courtier who treated his wife with cruelty, were all brought under the chastening hand of the High Commission.

‘Laud intended’, says Clarendon, ‘that the discipline of the Church should be felt as well as spoken of, and that it should be applied to the greatest and most splendid transgressors as well as to the punishment of smaller offences and of meaner offenders’. Under his influence the bishop began to make much more searching enquiries in their visitation articles, and so revive the discipline of the laity, which had been suffered to fall into disuse. . . . Householders were obliged to send their children and servants to be catechised. . . . All parishioners had to make their communions three times a year, and attend the services of their own parish church, to bow at the name of Jesus, and uncover their heads during the service.” (H. O. Wakeman, Hist. Ch. of Eng., pp. 368-9)

It must be understood that the nonconformists here mentioned were not ministers of a separate religious body, but Puritans who had been thrust into English livings, and who refused to obey the rules or teach the faith of the Church of which they were the official representatives. The conception of religious toleration—the existence of various religious denominations all equal before the law—had not yet arisen.

The puritans were as fanatically opposed to it as were the Anglicans. It was a question of which party should capture the Church of England. Charles, in supporting Laud’s efforts to enforce church discipline, was carrying out the ancient idea of Christian Kingship. Bit throughout their endeavours runs one ironical fact. Laud, in restoring the altar to its proper place, had to rely, not on catholic custom but on a royal injunction of Queen Elizabeth, while the Prayer Book, upon whose use he so strongly insisted, had no canonical authority whatever. It had never ever been submitted to Convocation, but depended solely upon an Act of Parliament—the Elizabethan Act of Uniformity—which same authority had also given to the English sovereign the statutory position of “Supreme Governor of the Church of England”! The Court of High Commission, through which Laud was constrained to act, in enforcing the discipline of the Church, was not an ecclesiastical court at all. It was a secular court set up by Elizabeth’s Supremacy Act, for the purpose of exercising the ecclesiastical jurisdiction attached to the Crown by the statute of Henry VIII.

This court had power “to exercise by delegation from the crown the spiritual jurisdiction formerly exercised by the Church”. (Wakeman, p. 319)

Nevertheless, it is true that Charles, in spite of all handicaps and all anomalies, did strive to realize the Catholic idea of Christian Kingship, and soon the issues were to be brought to a point when he would have to choose between a deliberate betrayal of the Church of England and dying a martyr’s death. That the civil war was a war of religion fully as much as it was a war of politics, is shown by the conduct of the parliamentary army and by Parliament itself.

“As the Parliamentary army set out from London in September, 1642, they sacked the churches on their way, burning the communion tables and destroying surplices and prayer-books. . . . At Oxford they fired shots at the statue of the Blessed Virgin with her infant Son in her arms over the new porch of St. Mary’s church. Later they hacked to pieces the representation of Christ on tapestry at Canterbury, and made a stone statue of Him a target. The cathedral church of Worcester was foully defiled, and many another after it. Charing Cross was destroyed by order of the Common Council on 2 May 1643. Before that, on April, the House of Commons had appointed a ‘committee for demolishing of Monuments of Superstition and Idolatry”. . . . Bishop Hall tells in sad words the ‘furious sacrilege’ which he witnessed in the ‘reforming the Cathedral Church at Norwich’. . . .” (Hutton, Hist. Eng. Ch., pp. 125-6) Under this order every “altar of table of stone” was to be destroyed, also all crucifixes, crosses, images, and pictures (especially of the Blessed Virgin Mary). Churches were turned into ale-houses, cathedrals used for stabling horses. Even the priceless old glass windows, depicting the lives of the Saints, were ruthlessly smashed.

In January, 1643, a bill was passed in both Houses for “abolishing episcopacy”. Later in the year, as the price of military assistance from the Scots, the House of Commons accepted the Solemn League and Covenant, pledging it to the extirpation of “popery and prelacy” and the acceptance of a Presbyterian ministry and Calvinistic doctrine.

“From the year 1643, therefore, the clergy began to be ejected from their livings, partly as malignants, or aiders of the king party, partly for refusing the Covenant and adhering to the Prayer Book. The number ejected cannot have fallen far short of two thousand”. (Ibid., p. 128)

“Some of the benefices thus vacated were filled by the patrons with Presbyterian or independent ministers who had been ordained by the presbyteries, or, in many cases, had not received any sort of ordination at all. Some were simply seized by men who made themselves ministers of the vacant parishes without any lawful authority whatever”. (H. O. Wakeman, Hist. Eng. Ch., p. 376) In 1644 the observance of church festivals was abolished. Christmas was ordered to be observed as a fast. The use of the Prayer Book, even in private houses, was made a penal offence. Laud, after a mock trial, was executed in 1645.

After the death of Laud an attempt was made to arrange peace. Commissioners from both sides met at Uxbridge on 29 January 1645. But the negotiations broke down “because Charles was determined to preserve episcopacy, while the Scots who now controlled the policy of Parliament, were determined on its destruction. Charles was willing, on the advice of his chaplains, to grant toleration, but he said: ‘Let my condition be never so low, I am resolved by the grace of God never to yield up this Church’.” (See W. H. Hutton’s article on Charles I in A Dictionary of English Church History, Edited by Ollard.)

After the battle of Nazeby it became evident that the royal cause was hopeless, and on 6 May 1646, Charles gave himself up to the Scots. He was king of Scotland as well as king of England, and a rift had already taken place between the Scottish Presbyterians and the English Parliament, which was by this time mainly Independent and disinclined to establish Presbyterian discipline to its full extent.

“Then came months of difficult negotiation. The king was willing to allow the establishment of Presbyterianism for a time, and the suppression of the Independents, in whom men like Baxter as well as the Scots already saw their most dangerous foes; but he insisted on the maintenance of some at least of the sees, as a security for freedom of Church worship and for the continuance of apostolical succession”. (W. H. Hutton, A History of the English Church, p. 138)

The Scots would only promise their aid on condition that the king would consent to the abolition of the Church of England and the establishment of a Presbyterian Church in its place after the Scottish model.

The king refused, and his doom was sealed. The Scots handed him over to the English Parliament.

During his imprisonment at Holmby House, another attempt was made to establish peace by what was known as the Treaty of Newport, but it came to nothing because the king still refused entirely to abandon episcopacy. “How can we expect God’s blessing”, he said, “if we relinquish his Church? . . . we should have neither lawful priests, nor sacraments duly administered, nor God publicly served, but according to the foolish fancy of every idle person”. (W. H. Hutton’s article in Dict. Eng. Ch. Hist.)

On 11 November he escaped to Carisbrook Castle, where he once more became a prisoner, and on 30 January 1649 he suffered death before a vast crowd assembled at Whitehall.

Thus there were three distinct occasions on which Charles might have saved his life and regained his throne by the sacrifice of his principles. There can be little doubt, as Bishop Creighton remarks, that “had Charles been willing to abandon the Church and give up episcopacy, he might have saved his throne and his life. But on this point he stood firm; for this he died, and by dying saved it for the future”. We are therefore justified in claiming King Charles as a Martyr for the Catholic religion. That dreadful deed, when, as G. K. Chesterton expresses it, a Puritan “cut off the anointed head of the sacramental man of the middle ages”, sent a profound thrill of horror through the whole country.

“From the very moment that the axe fell”, says Fr. Sillitoe (in a sermon preached at Saint Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe on 30 January 1937), he was hailed by popular acclamation as a saint and a martyr. Men and women surged to the scaffold to dip their handkerchiefs in the martyr’s blood and purchase blood-stained chips of wood to be preserved as sacred relics. Very shortly afterwards miracle-working properties were claimed for these relics”. “In 1637, three years before the Restoration, the dowager Countess of Devonshire built a Church at Peak Forest, Derbyshire, and though possible never used nor consecrated until after the Restoration, it was nevertheless at the time of its building dedicated to Saint Charles, King and Martyr, which dedication remains to this date”. (See article by Rev’d E. Milner-White in The Church Times for 27 August 1937.)

In ancient times (at least in some parts of the Church) this recognition of sainthood by popular acclamation constituted what afterwards came to be known as “canonization”. Many of the Celtic Saints could probably claim nothing beyond this. In more organized parts of the Church the matter lay in the hands of the local bishop or in those of the metropolitan or patriarch. “About the XII Century local canonization began to give way in the West to the centralized action of Rome. . . . Diocesan beatification, however, did not die out until the present elaborate process was finally defined by the Bulls of Pope Urban VIII in 1625 and 1634”. (See article by Rev’d E. Milner-White in the Church Times for 27 August 1937.) Under this process, the test required (after orthodoxy and heroic virtue) is miracles. Miracles are also demanded by some of the Eastern Churches, though not by all. “Rome”, says Fr. Milner-White, “is fast lessening its insistence upon ‘miracles’. It did not require them in the cases of More and Fisher, though it may be said that the fact of martyrdom overrode the necessity. But in any case, ‘miracle’ to Rome is coming to mean no more than an answer to prayer, following on the invocation of the holy man”. Incorruptibility of body used to be another test, but was definitely given up by the Church of Russia in 1705, and by Rome at a much earlier date. (article by Fr. Milner-White)

It is, however, interesting to note that even this test is met in the case of Saint Charles. In 1813, in the presence of the Prince Regent, the Duke of Cumberland, Count Munster, the Dean of Westminster, and the Royal Physician, Sir Henry Holford, the vault in Saint George’s Chapel (where the King had been interred) was opened, and the coffin was uncovered, when the body was found to have suffered no corruption. The narrative to this effect was drawn up by Sir Henry Holford and signed by the Prince Regent. It has been deposited in the British Museum. (J. G. Muddiman, Trial of Charles I, with preface by the late Earl of Birkenhead, p. 166)

We must now consider the formal canonization of the Royal Martyr. It must be admitted that the “Cavalier Parliament”, which met on 8 May 1661, made a bad start, almost amounting to bathos. It ordered that the 30th of January should be observed as a fast, as an act of national penance for having slain the King.

Here we see the doctrine of “Divine Right” in full play.

In contract with this, the Bishop of Winchester (Bryan Duppa) issued a form of prayer for that day.” (W. H. Hutton, A History of the English Church, p. 196):

“O Lord, we offer unto Thee all praise and thanks for the glory of Thy grace that shined forth in Thine anointed servant, Charles; and we beseech Thee to give us all grace by a careful studious imitation of this Thy blessed Saint and Martyr, that we may be made worthy to receive benefit by his prayers, which he, in common with the Church Catholic, offers up unto Thee for that part of it here militant, through Thy Son, our Blessed Saviour Jesus Christ.” Here we have a clear example of the ancient form of diocesan canonization already alluded to. But something more was needed than diocesan action.

Mr. Chesterton says:

“Whether or no we believe that the Reformation really reformed, there can be little doubt that the Restoration did not really restore. Charles II was never in the old sense a King, he was Leader of the Opposition to his own ministers.” (G. K. Chesterton, A Short History of England, p. 179) He certainly did not restore the idea of Christian Kingship so firmly held by his father—he was content to rely upon the Royal Supremacy. When the question arose of restoring the use of the Prayer Book, he sought for a compromise with the Presbyterians by referring the matter to the Savoy Conference, composed of divines of both parties in equal number. When he found that agreement was hopeless, he referred the matter to Convocation—but not as to a body which had supreme spiritual authority in the Province. He ordered it to “review” the Book of Common Prayer, and to send to him in writing any additions and alterations they might think fit “for his further allowance and confirmation”—which, if he approved, he would then recommend to Parliament “that the said Book of Common Prayer shall be appointed to be used”. (See preamble to the Act of Uniformity, 1662.)

Convocation carried out this mandate very conscientiously, and submitted more than 600 “additions and alterations”, all in a Catholic direction, which, on receiving the royal approval, were embodied in the Act of Uniformity of 1662. In reviewing the Kalendar, Convocation inserted the name of “King Charles the Martyr” against the 30thJanuary. It also drew up a “form of prayer” for use on that day, as for a “red-letter” Saint’s Day. It included special psalms and lessons at matins and evensong, and a special collect, epistle, and gospel at Holy Communion. This may be said to constitute the Provincial canonization of Saint Charles, and to justify the dedication of Churches in his honour. There are six churches under this dedication:

Saint Charles, King and Martyr, Peak Forest (1657)
King Charles the Martyr, Falmouth (1662)
Charles Church, Plymouth (1665)
King Charles the Martyr, Tunbridge Wells (1684)
King Charles the Martyr, Newtown-by-Wem (1861)
King Charles the Martyr, South Mymms (1940)

On 1 September 1665, Ward, Bishop of Exeter, writing to Archbishop Sancroft, speaks of his consecration of a church in Falmouth “by the name of Charles Church, in memoriam Caroli Regis et martyris,out of the honour which every true son of the Church owes to his memory (the only person canonized for a martyr by it.”. (Hutton, Hist. Eng. Church., p. 194) This may show some doubt in the mind of the good bishop as to when the Church of England was founded (he may even have thought that it was in the reign of Queen Elizabeth!) abut at least he shows no doubt as to the formal canonization of Saint Charles.

The “form of prayer” drawn up by Convocation for use of 30thJanuary, was not ready in time to be included in the “Book Annexed”, which was authorized by the Act of Uniformity, but it was issued under a Royal Warrant which was repeated at the beginning of all subsequent reigns until that of Edward VII. The Kalendar, on the other hand, formed part of the “Book Annexed”, and was duly enacted by Parliament.

Various attempts were made by the Whig party to get rid of the services commemorating King Charles the Martyr. These finally succeeded in 1859, when the Royal Warrant authorizing them was revoked, and it was directed that the services should no longer be printed with the Prayer Book. At the same time the name of King Charles was expunged from the Kalendar—but it was done quite illegally by the Queen’s printers on instructions received from the Home Secretary.

It has been remarked that “The loss of the actual services for the 30th January” (drawn up by the Convocation of 1661) “is hardly to be deplored, for the emphasis throughout the Office was on reparation for the murder of the King, and there appears little of the joy which the Church delights to show on the birthday of a Martyr.”

Various attempts have been made to get the name of King Charles restored to the Kalendar. The Lower House of Convocation in 1915, 1917, and 1918 petitioned for its restoration, but each time it was refused by the bishops of the Upper House.

This raises some very interesting and complicated questions. In the first place, it is difficult to see how Convocation could “restore” what it had never abrogated. The insertion of King Charles’s name in the Kalendar has already all the authority that the Church (or Parliament either) can give to it. All the Convocation could do would be to request the Home Secretary to instruct the King’s printers to abstain from their illegal action!—a petition which is not very likely to produce much result. But even if it were successful, what “form of service” should we use for the 30thJanuary? Should we feel inclined to use that prescribed by the Convocation of 1661? I do not think so—at least not without some modifications. For some years past the feast of Saint Charles has been observed in a growing number of churches. In the early 1900s it was observed at Saint Margaret, Pattens, and later at Saint Cuthbert, Philbeach Gardens, and at Saint Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe. The Society of King Charles the Martyr was founded in 1894, and one of its objects is to encourage the observance of this feast, and it has issued an Order of the Mass for use on that day. The Epistle and Gospel (suggestive as they are of the doctrine of Divine Right) are the same as those authorized by the Convocation of 1661. But the collect composed by Bishop Duppa has been substituted for the Convocation collect, and the service has been enriched by the addition of Introit, Gradual, Tract, Sequence, Offertory, Secret, Communion, and Post Communion. The Bishops of 1661 would hardly recognize it!

This raises the whole question of the canonical authority of Convocation—bound hand and foot, as it is, by the “Submission of the Clergy” and the Royal Supremacy, and in enforced separation from the Centre of Catholic Christendom. The “form of service” for 30th January had the approval of Convocation—so had the revised Prayer Book of 1662. But neither one nor the other was promulgated by Convocation; the former was promulgated by Royal Warrant and the latter by Act of Parliament. The whole position of the Church of England is anomalous, and will remain anomalous until Catholic Reunion has been effected and the Royal Supremacy abolished.

Under these circumstances the tendency among English Catholics has been to revert to older models of liturgical worship, which have the sanction of 1,000 years of Catholic use and authority, from the introduction of the “office hymn” at Evensong to the celebration of the Mass of the Presanctified on Good Friday. Such sanction cannot, of course, be pleaded for the commemoration of Saint Charles the Martyr. All that can be said is, that Convocation, with its strictly limited powers, has given it such Provincial recognition as it was able to give. For the actual form of service, we may well use a very wide discretion, keeping as closely as possible to Catholic models for celebrating the festivals of the Saints.

The great point is that the Festival should be revived. It has already received all the sanction that Provincial authority is capable of giving to it, and Englishmen need to be reminded of the last exponent of “Christian Kingship” and of all he did and suffered on behalf of the Ecclesia Anglicana. We may well be assured that Saint Charles, in glory, has not forgotten the Church in whose defence he died; may his prayers hasten the time when that Church shall once more regain her full Catholic heritage.


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