Sunday, October 17, 2010

Regicides, Revenge and "Saints"

  • On October 17, 1660, the Restoration of Charles II looked back to the execution of the king's father on January 30, 1649. The Indemity and Oblivion Act forgave many of the faults of the former regimes during the Interregnum while the Declaration of Breda proclaimed that Charles had succeeded his father in 1649, as though the past eleven years had not mattered. But it mattered that 59 commissioners had condemned Charles I to death, and 31 of them were still alive. (The illustration above depicts the trial of Charles I.)
  • Some of the bodies of the deceased--particularly Oliver Cromwell's--were exhumed and hung in chains for their treason. Cromwell's head was mounted on a pole outside Westminster Hall until 1685.
  • Ten men were tried in October and endured hanging or hanging, drawing, and quartering on October 17, 1660. Others still living had fled to the Continent--some were imprisoned in the Tower of London for the rest of their lives.

  • In 1660, King Charles I was named a martyr-saint in the Church of England, although he is not commonly honored today, except by the Society of King Charles the Martyr (SKCM). The Church of England honors "saints" but doesn't really call them SAINTS. It has no process for canonization and the church makes no judgment that those it honors are in heaven; they don't look for miracles--just historical importance, obvious devotion, and an avoidance of controversy (according to the Lambeth Conference).

  • A look at the Kalendar for Common Worship certainly demonstrates the range of those honored throughout the year. Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley, Hugh Latimer, Thomas More, William Tyndale, and John Fisher are honored--as are William Laud and George Fox. John Keble and John Henry Newman; Florence Nightingale (a Unitarian Universalist) and Edith Cavell. There are quite a few High-Church, Anglo-Catholic names: William Law, Thomas Ken, Richard Hooker, John Mason Neale. On May 4th, there is a catch-all feast for the England Saints and Martyrs of the Reformation Era, which includes Catholics, Anglicans, and Protestants; there is no standard for orthodoxy within the list. Thomas a Becket and John Wyclif are honored at the end of the year, December 29 and 31 respectively. A couple of Popes even make the list--Gregory the Great and Leo the Great--although they are called Bishops of Rome.


  1. Why did the Anglicans stop honoring Charles I? Is it because he did not exactly "avoid controversy"?

  2. I believe that is exactly it--to Low Church and Broad Church Anglicans his presence on the Kalendar would be controversial. Of course, nearly everyone on the list could be controversial. BBC History designated Thomas a Becket as the worst Briton of his age! To an evangelical Low Church Anglican Thomas More could be controversial! Florence Nightingale's presence on the Kalendar could offend Anglicans who believe in the Trinity! It's a strange standard.

  3. The High Anglican and Episcopalian churhces do still honour Charles I, although not universally. There are services held in his honour on his feast day (the anniversary of his execution) in Oxford, for sure, as well as in London and various rural parishes. And I know of services being held in Baltimore, New York and other parts of America, too.