Charles Stuart of England, King and Martyr



Charles Stuart was the 2nd son of James I and Anne of Denmark, born on 19 Nov 1600.  On 27 March 1625 Charles succeeded to the throne as Charles I and married Henrietta Maria, the sister of King Louis XIII of France.

His father James VI of Scotland and afterwards James I of England, was an ardent convert from Scottish Calvinism, and labored diligently throughout all his dominions to exalt the doctrines of the priesthood and the sacraments, which the Calvinists had denied. 

Parliamentary Struggle

The House of Commons struggled for a constitutional monarchy, which was contrary to the King's prerogatives, who like his father believed in the "divine right of kings."  Not only did he oppose the politics of his enemies, but Charles steadfastly refused to do away with the Catholic constitution of the Church, and for this Parliament finally condemned him to death.  The Puritans led by Oliver Cromwell plotted against him, and in 1646 Charles gave himself up to the Scots.  

Trial and Martyrdom

At the mockery of a trial in January 1649, Charles I refused to acknowledge the jurisdiction of the court.  Nonetheless, he was sentenced on 27 January 1649 for execution.  Charles declared himself bound by his coronation oath neither to abandon Episcopacy, i.e., the order of bishops, nor to alienate the Church's patrimony.  The Treaty of Newport offered him life and scepter if only he would renounce the Church; and, knowing what refusal would mean, he utterly declined to yield.

The king had chosen Bishop William Juxon to be with him throughout his imprisonment and execution.  On the scaffold 30 January 1649 the king gave a brief speech and declared that he would die professing the tenets of the Church of England.  He concluded by saying "I die a Christian according to the profession of the Church of England as I found it left to me by my father...I have a good cause and I have a gracious God."

Bishop Juxon said "There is but one stage more which though turbulent and troublesome, yet is a very short one; you may consider that it will carry you a very great way; it will carry you from Earth to Heaven, and there you shall find to your great joy, the prize you hasten to; a Crown of Glory."  Charles replied, "I go from a corruptible to an incorruptible Crown, where no disturbance can be, no disturbance in the world."  He then passed his George to Juxon and said, "Remember!"

Charles was imprisoned by sectaries, who offered him his life on condition that he abolish Episcopacy.  But Episcopacy is of the very essence of the Church, even as Saint Ignatius saith, "Sine episcopo nulla ecclesia."  Wherefore, this prince chose death rather than apostasy.  The Bishop of London and Dixie Chair of Ecclesiastical History at the University of Cambridge Mandell Creighton (1843-1901), stated in 1895 that, although episcopacy was a key target of his opponents, "on this point Charles stood firm; for this he died, and by dying saved it for the future."

Sanctus Carolus, Regis et Martyris, ora pro nobis!

Saint Charles, King and Martyr, pray for us!