Saturday, April 17, 2010

Charles I. Engraving by W. Hall after a painting by Van Dyk. London: William MacKenzie, [n.d.]

Charles was in a weak position from the moment he ascended the throne. Unfavored by his father, self-prepared for kingship, loyal to friends who misused him, and in dire need of money for wars he inherited, he needed to make concessions. Stubborn and inflexible about things he held dear, like his duties to God and to the Nation, Duty was his undoing. He believed that God had made him king, therefore, strong criticism approached blasphemy. As head of the Church, he believed that the Church’s structure was divinely given. Parliament’s wish to abolish the office of Bishop, for example, was against Christ’s historical example. His father, James, had gone so far as to reinstitute the office of Bishop in Presbyterian Scotland. Charles went further. In 1637, he introduced the Book of Common Prayer into the Scottish Church. The Scots’ answer to Charles was to raise an army, throw-out the bishops, and occupy northern England. Charles, who had disbanded the English Parliament because it would not agree with him, now had to reconvene it to ask for money to fight the Scots. Eventually, Parliament raised an army against him, as well. Charles’s negotiations were designed to divide these two opponents. The King went north to join the Scottish Army (which had been raised against him!), and rode with them to Newcastle where he debated theology with the Presbyterians. Charles’s plan in so doing was to confuse Parliament. It worked by awakening the basic distrust between the English and the Scots of this period. What should have been a captive’s shameful return at times took on the appearance of a royal progress where roads were lined with ordinary folk cheering. Correspondence, which should have been censored, was freely received and sent. Realizing that the situation was out of control, the English kidnapped the King from their “allies” (the Scottish Army). Shortly afterwards, he escaped, but was retaken.

LC27 1.1

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