Why was Charles I executed?
By Keir Martland
I am what might be jokingly termed a ‘crypto-Anglican.’ Often, I attend some of the more ‘High Church’ services in the Church of England, principally at my College Chapel when ‘on duty’ as a Warden, alongside my regular attendance of Roman Catholic services. This is partly out of a spirit of ecumenism and partly out of an aesthetic appreciation of Choral Evensong and Anglican High Mass according to the Book of Common Prayer. Indeed, there is much to recommend this kind of Anglicanism to the aesthete. Firstly, the Church of England owns – or rather, is in possession of – all the old Catholic churches in this country, and these churches are invariably the prettiest in the country. Secondly, there is something charming, but also interesting on an academic level, about the Cranmerian English of the Prayer Book, such as in the archaic and foreign-sounding “spare thou them.” Thirdly, the Anglican choral tradition is hard to compete with, and Choral Evensong – at least, at my College Chapel – is a delight for those who enjoy early Stuart and Restoration Era “Mag & Nuncs” and anthems (the works of Orlando Gibbons and Pelham Humphrey are particular favourites of mine). It is this rich tradition that the Personal Ordinariates established by Pope Benedict XVI seek to preserve.
And yet I digress already, for it is in a spirit of ecumenism (an entirely benign effect of Vatican II) and not aestheticism that I write today. Today is the 368th anniversary of the execution of the Anglican Martyr King Charles I. 368 years ago, Charles I was executed outside the Banqueting House at Whitehall following two Civil Wars, also known as the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. Charles had lost both Civil Wars and had failed to reach a settlement with the Scots, Parliament, or the Army, and eventually the latter took the initiative to break the deadlock, put him on “trial” following a royalist defeat in the Second Civil War, and murdered him. But why did this happen? Continue reading