Contested martyrdom: Charles I

A note at the front of the volume claims that the pointed modification to this image of Charles I [1600–49] was part of extensive censorship of this book by the Inquisition in Lisbon. The illustration demonstrates the ways in which after his execution many saw Charles not as a political casualty and deposed king, but as a martyr who had died in a quest to protect his nation and the Church of England from religious radicals. The censorship to this volume crossed out all such references. Thus, as we can see here, the ‘blessed and eternal’ crown awaiting the king in heaven is struck through. And yet the attempt to obscure Charles as martyr seems curiously ineffectual: the crown of thorns and the many other symbols of holiness mean that this portrait continues very clearly to display its message. We are left with a strangely ambivalent image, which thus makes explicit on one page the debates over martyrdom, reputation and sanctity that we know to have been at the heart of so many early modern ways of remembering Reformation lives. CL

‘Charles I, works, expurgated by the inquisition’, engraving of King Charles the Martyr.

LPL: MS 322

Further Reading

Arnold Hunt, ‘King Charles the Martyr Expurgated’ in Lambeth Palace Library: Treasures from the Collection of the Archbishops of Canterbury (London, 2010), pp. 130–133.

Andrew Lacey, The Cult of King Charles the Martyr (Woodbridge, 2003).

Kevin Sharpe, ‘So Hard a Text? Images of Charles I, 1612-1700’, Historical Journal, 43 (2000), pp. 383–405.

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