Saturday, April 17, 2010

Eikon Basilike: The Portaiture of His Sacred Majesty in His Solitudes and Sufferings. [London?], 1648

The anglicized Greek title translates as “The Royal Portrait” and is allegedly written by King Charles I. William Levett, Esq., longtime groom of the bedchamber to King Charles I, swore that he witnessed Charles writing it during his imprisonment on the Isle of Wright. Scholars continue to disagree about its authorship. After the Restoration, John Gauden claimed to have written it from Charles’s papers. It is confessional in nature and speaks of the religious principles and political reasons for Charles’s actions. The representation of Charles I as a Christian Martyr in both the text and the image seen here incorporates Continental Counter-Reformation depictions with standard English representations of the Monarch. The work was so successful at showing the King’s inner, spiritual life that on May 19, 1660 the Convocation of Canterbury and York canonized King Charles and added a commemoration to the calendar for the date of his decollation, January 30th.

Eikon Basilike was wildly popular (36 editions in 1649 alone!) although officially condemned during the Commonwealth and Protectorate. To evade detection, it was probably printed in small batches. Also, the lack of a printer’s name and place of publication, as well as the erroneous date, attests to the underground nature of its publication.

LC9 181

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