Charles I of England painted by Dutch painter Van Dyck. Charles I brought both Van Dyck and Peter Paul Rubens to England
Charles I of England (1600 -1649) was crowned king of England in 1625 and shortly thereafter married Henrietta Maria, sister of the French king, Louis XIII. Charles I was a devout Christian preferring the high church services of the Church of England to the plain services of the Puritan reformers who were growing in number and power. With a Roman Catholic wife, the Puritans never trusted him and suspected him of Popish sympathies. In his private devotions, he prayed for wisdom to rule righteously, and prayed for his subjects’ well-being. He considered himself a King of the people. He died claiming to be a martyr of the people. As he prayed,
“And if thy anger be not to be yet turned away, but thy hand of justice must be stretched out still; let it I beseech thee be against Me, and My father’s house; as for these sheep, what have they done?”
Unable to cope with the dissatisfaction either of a rising middle class or of those Puritans seeking more radical reforms in the church of England, Charles I pursued policies that conflicted with Parliament that led finally to civil war. Defeated by the Puritan dominated Parliamentarians, arrested, and beheaded, Charles was seen as a saintly martyr by royalists and a day in the Church of England Prayer Book calendar was dedicated to his memory when the monarchy was restored. The prayer below attributed to Charles I and from his private devotions, reflects with great skill the vision of the godly king held by those who supported him.
PENITENTIAL MEDITATIONS AND VOWS IN THE KING’S SOLITUDE AT HOLDENBY
Give ear to My words 0 Lord, consider My meditation, and hearken to the voice of My cry, My King and My God for unto thee will I pray. I said in My haste I am cast out of the sight of thine eyes; nevertheless thou hears the voice of My supplication, when I cry unto thee.
If thou Lord should be extreme to mark what is done amiss, who can abide it? But there is mercy with thee, that thou may be feared; therefore shall sinners fly unto thee.
I acknowledge My sin before thee, which have the aggravation of My condition; the eminence of My place adding weight to My offences.
Forgive, I beseech thee, My personal, and My peoples sins; which are so far Mine, as I have not improved the power thou gave Me, to thy glory, and My subjects good: thou hast now brought Me from the glory and freedom of a King, to be a prisoner to My own subjects: justly, 0 Lord, as to thy over-ruling hand, because in many things I have rebelled against thee.
Thou hast restrained My person, yet enlarged My heart to thee, and thy grace towards Me. I come far short of David’s piety; yet since I may equal David’s afflictions, give Me also the comforts and the sure mercies of David. Let the penitent sense I have of My sins, be an evidence to Me, that thou hast pardoned them. Let not the evils, which I and My kingdoms have suffered, seem little unto thee; though thou hast not punished us according to our sins. Turn thee (0 Lord) unto Me; have mercy Upon Me, for I am desolate and afflicted. The sorrows of My heart are enlarged; 0 bring thou Me out of My troubles.
Hast thou forgotten to be gracious, and shut up thy loving kindness in displeasure?
O remember thy compassions of old, and thy loving kindnesses, which have been for many generations. I had utterly fainted, if I had not believed to see thy goodness in the land of the living. Let not the sins of our prosperity deprive us of the benefit of thy afflictions. Let this fiery trial consume the dross, which in long peace and plenty we had contracted. Though thou continue miseries, yet withdraw not thy grace; what is wanting of prosperity, make up in patience and repentance.
And if thy anger be not to be yet turned away, but thy hand of justice must be stretched out still; let it I beseech thee be against Me, and My father’s house; as for these sheep, what have they done?
Let My sufferings satiate the malice of Mine, and thy Churches enemies;
But let their cruelty never exceed the measure of My charity.
Banish from Me all thoughts of revenge, that I may not lose the reward, nor thou the glory of My patience. As thou give Me a heart to forgive them, so I beseech thee doe thou forgive what they have done against thee and Me. And now, O Lord, as thou hast given Me an heart to pray unto thee; so hear and accept this vow, which I make before thee. If thou wilt in mercy remember Me, and My kingdoms; in continuing the light of thy Gospel, and settling thy true religion among us;
In restoring to us the benefit of the laws, and the due execution of justice;
In suppressing the many schisms in Church, and factions in State:
If thou wilt restore Me and Mine to the ancient rights and glory of My predecessors;
If thou wilt turn the hearts of My people to thy self in piety, to Me in loyalty, and to one another in charity;
If thou wilt quench the flames, and withdraw the fuel of these civil wars;
If thou wilt bless us with the freedoms of public counsels, and deliver the honor of Parliaments from the insolence of the vulgar;
If thou wilt keep Me from the great offence of enacting anything against My conscience; and especially from consenting to sacrilegious rapines, and spoilings of thy Church:
If thou wilt restore Me to a capacity to glorify thee in doing good, both to the Church and State;
Then shall My soul praise thee, and magnify thy name before My people.
Then shall thy glory be dearer to Me then My crowns; and the advancement of true religion both in purity and power be My chiefest care. Then will I rule My people with justice, and My kingdoms with equity. To thy more immediate hand shall I ever own as the rightful succession, so the merciful restoration of My kingdoms, and the glory of them. If thou wilt bring Me again with peace, safety, and honor to My chiefest city, and My Parliament. If thou wilt again put the sword of justice into My hand to punish and protect.
Then will I make all the world to see and My very enemies to enjoy the benefit of this vow and resolution of Christian charity, which I now make unto thee O Lord.
As I do freely pardon for Christ’s sake those that have offended Me in any kind; so My hand shall never be against any man to revenge what is past, in regard of any particular injury done to Me.
We have been mutually punished in our unnatural divisions; for thy sake O Lord, and for the love of My Redeemer, have I purposed this in My heart, that I will use all means in the ways of amnesty and indemnity, which may most fully remove all fears, and bury all jealousies in forgetfulness.
Let thy mercies be toward Me and Mine, as My resolutions of truth and peace are toward My people.
Hear My prayer O Lord, which goes not out of feigned lips.
Blessed be God, who hath not turned away My prayer; nor taken his mercy from Me.
O My soul, commit thy way to the Lord, trust in him, and he shall bring it to pass. But if thou wilt not restore Me and Mine, what am I that I should charge thee foolishly? Thou O Lord hast given, and thou hast taken, blessed be thy name. May My people and thy Church be happy, if not by Me, yet without Me.
from Give Us Grace, An Anthology of Anglican Prayers, compiled by Christopher L. Webber for Moorehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, London and New York (2004)