Project Canterbury

Eikon Basilike,
Or, The King's Book

Edited by Edward Almack

London: A. Moring, Limited, At the De la More Press, 1904.
text from an "advance copy" of the first edition, 1649.

27. To the Prince of Wales.

SON, if these papers, with some others, wherein I have set down the private reflections of My Conscience, and My most impartiall thoughts, touching the chiefe passages, which have been most remarkable, or disputed in My late troubles, come to your hands, to whom they are chiefly designed; they may be so far usefull to you, as to state your judgement aright in what hath passed; whereof, a pious is the best use can be made; and they may also give you some directions, how to remedy the present distempers, and prevent (if God will) the like for time to come.

It is some kind of deceiving and lessening the injury of My long restraint, when I find My leisure and solitude have produced something worthy of My self, and usefull to you; That neither you, nor any other, may hereafter measure My Cause by the Successe; nor My Judgment of things by My misfortunes; which I count the greater by farre, because they have so farre lighted upon you, and some others, whom I have most cause to love as well as My self; and of whose unmerited sufferings I have a greater sense then of Mine own.

But this advantage of wisedome you have above most Princes; that you have begun, and now spent some yeares of discretion, in the experience of troubles, and exercise of patience, wherein Piety, and all Vertues, both Morall and Politicall, are commonly better planted to a thriving (as trees set in winter) then in the warmth, and serenity of times; or amidst those delights, which usually attend Princes Courts in times of peace and plenty; which are prone, either to root up all plants of true Vertue and Honour; or to be contented only with some leaves, and withering formalities of them, without any reall fruits, such as tend to the Publick good; for which Princes should alwayes remember they are born and by providence designed.

The evidence of which different education the holy Writ affords us in the contemplation of David and Rehoboam: The one prepared, by many afflictions for a flourishing Kingdom, the other softned by the unparalel'd prosperity of Solomons Court; and so corrupted to the great diminution, both for Peace, Honour, and Kingdome, by those flatteries, which are as unseparable from prosperous Princes, as Flies are from fruit in summer; whom adversity, like cold weather, drives away.

I had rather you should be Charles le Bow, then le Grand, good, then great; I hope God hath designed you to be both, having so early put you into that exercise of his Graces, and gifts bestowed upon you, which may best weed out all vicious inclinations, and dispose you to those Princely endowments, and employments, which will most gain the love, and intend the welfare of those, over whom God shall place you.

With God I would have you begin and end, who is King of Kings; the Soveraign disposer of the Kingdomes of the world, who pulleth downe one, and setteth up another.

The best Government, and highest Soveraignty you can attain to is, to be subject to him, that the Scepter of his Word and Spirit may rule in your heart.

The true glory of Princes consists in advancing Gods Glory in the maintenance of true Religion, and the Churches good: Also in the dispensation of civill Power, with Justice and Honour to the Publick Peace.

Piety will make you prosperous; at least it will keep you from being miserable; nor is he much a loser, that loseth all, yet saveth his owne soule at last.

To which Center of true Happinesse God, I trust, hath and will graciously direct all these black lines of Affliction, which he hath been pleased to draw on me, and by which he hath (I hope) drawn me nearer to himself. You have already tasted of that cup whereof I have liberally drank, which I look upon as Gods Physick, having that in healthfulnesse which it wants in pleasure.

Above all, I would have you, as I hope you are already; wel-grounded and setled in your Religion: The best profession of which, I have ever esteemed that of the Church of England, in which you have been educated; yet I would have your own Judgement and Reason now seal to that sacred bond whicn education hath written, that it may be judiciously your own Religion, and not other mens custome or tradition, which you professe.

In this I charge you to persevere, as comming nearest to Gods Word for Doctrine, and to the primitive examples for Government, with some little amendment, which I have otherwhere expressed, and often offered, though in vain. Your fixation in matters of Religion will not be not more necessary for your soules then your Kingdomes peace, when God shall bring you to them.

For I have observed, that the Devill of Rebellion, doth commonly turn himself into an Angell of Reformation; and the old Serpent can pretend new Lights: When some mens Consciences accuse them for Sedition and Faction, they stop its mouth with the name and noise of Religion; when Piety pleads for peace and patience, they cry out Zeale.

So that, unlesse in this point You be well setled, you shall never want temptations to destroy you and yours, under pretensions of reforming matters of Religion; for that seemes, even to worst men, as the best and most auspicious beginning of their worst designes.

Where, besides the Novelty which is taking enough with the Vulgar, every one hath an affectation, by seeming forward to an outward Reformation of Religion, to be thought zealous; hoping to cover those irreligious deformities, whereto they are conscious by a severity of censuring other mens opinions or actions.

Take heed of abetting any Factions, or applying to any publick Discriminations in matters of Religion, contrary to what is in your Judgement, and the Church well setled; your partiall adhering, as head, to any one side, gaines you not so great advantages in some mens hearts (who are prone to be of their Kings Religion) as it loseth you in others; who think themselves, and their profession first despised, then persecuted by you: Take such a course as may either wth calmnes & charity quite remove the seeming differences and offences by impartiality, or so order affaires in point of Power that you shal not need to fear or flatter any Faction. For if ever you stand in need of them, or must stand to their courtesie, you are undone: The Serpent will devour the Dove: you may never expect lesse of loyalty, justice, or humanity, than from those, who engage into religious Rebellion; Their interest is alwaies made Gods; under the colours of Piety, ambitious policies march, not onely with greatest security, but applause, as to the populacy; you may heare from them Jacob's voice, but you shall feele they have Esau's hands. Nothing seemed lesse considerable than the Presbyterian Faction in England, for many yeares; so compliant they were to publique order: nor indeed was their Party great either in Church, or State, as to mens judgments: But as soone as discontents drave men into Sidings (as ill humours fall to the disaffected mart, which causes inflamations) so did all, at first, who affected any novelties, adhere to that Side, as the most remarkable and specious note of difference (then) in point of Religion.

All the lesser Factions at first were officious Servants to Presbytery their great Master: till time and military successe discovering to each their peculiar advantages, invited them to part stakes, and leaving the joynt stock of uniforme Religion, pretended each to drive for their Party the trade of profits and preferments, to the breaking and undoing not onely of the Church and State, but even of Presbytery it self, which seemed and hoped at first to have ingrossed all. Let nothing seem little or desplicable to you in matters which concerne Religion and the Churches peace, so as to neglect a speedy reforming and effectual suppressing Errours & Schismes, which seem at first but as a handbredth, by seditious Spirits, as by strong winds are soon made to cover and darken the whole Heaven.

When you have done justice to God, your own soule and his Church, in the profession and preservation both of truth and unity in Religion: the next main hinge on which your prosperity will depend, and move, is, that of civill Justice, wherein the setled Laws of these Kingdomes, to which you are rightly Heire, are the most excellent rules you can governe by; which by an admirable temperament give very much to Subjects industry, liberty, and happinesse; and yet reserve enough to the Majesty and prerogative of any King, who ownes his People as Subjects, not as Slaves; whose subjection, as it preserves their property, peace, and safety, so it will never diminish your Rights, nor their ingenuous Liberties; which consists in the enjoyment of the fruits of their industry, and the benefit of those Lawes to which themselves have consented.

Never charge your Head with such a Crowne, as shall by its heavinesse oppresse the whole body, the weaknesse of whose parts cannot returne any thing of strength, honour, or safety, to the Head, but a necessary debilitation and ruine.

Your Prerogative is best shewed, and exercised in remitting, rather than exacting the rigor of the Lawes; there being nothing worse than legall Tyranny.

In these two points, the preservation of established Religion, and Lawes, I may (without vanity) turne the reproach of My sufferings, as to the worlds censure, into the honour of a kind of Martyrdome, as to the testimony of My owne Conscience; The Troublers of My Kingdomes having nothing else to object against Me but this, That I preferre Religion, and Lawes established before those alterations they propounded.

And so indeed I doe, and ever shall, till I am convinced by better Arguments, than what hitherto have been chiefly used towards Me, Tumults, Armies, and Prisons.

I cannot yet learne that lesson, nor I hope ever will you, That it is safe for a King to gratifie any Faction with the perturbation of the Lawes, in which is wrapt up the publique Interest, and the good of the Community.

How God will deale with Me, as to the removall of these pressures, & indignities, which his justice by the very unjust hands of some of My Subjects, hath been pleased to lay upon Me, I cannot tell: nor am I much solicitous what wrong I suffer from men, while I retaine in My soule, what I believe is right before God.

I have offered all for Reformation and Safety, that in Reason, Honour, and Conscience I can; reserving onely what I cannot consent unto, without an irreparable injury to My own Soule, the Church, and My People, and to You also, as the next and undoubted Heire of My Kingdomes.

To which if the divine Providence, to whom no difficulties are insuperable, shall in his due time after My decease bring You, as I hope he will; My counsell and charge to You, is, That You seriously consider the former, reall, or objected miscarriages, which might occasion My troubles, that You may avoid them.

Never repose so much upon any mans single counsell, fidelity and discretion, in managing affaires of the first magnitude, (that is, matters of Religion and Justice) as to create in Your selfe, or others, a diffidence of Your owne judgment, which is likely to be alwaies more constant & impartiall to the interests of Your Crowne and Kingdome than any mans.

Next, beware of exasperating any Factions by the crosnesse, and asperity of some mens passions, humours, or private opinions, imployed by You, grounded onely upon the differences in lesser matters, which are but the skirts and suburbs of Religion.

Wherein a charitable connivence and Christian toleration often dissipates their strength, whom rougher opposition fortifies; and puts the despised and oppressed Party, into such Combinations, as may most enable them to get a full revenge on those they count their Persecutors, who are commonly assisted by that vulgar commiseration, which attends all, that are said to suffer under the notion of Religion.

Provided the differences amount not to an insolent opposition of Lawes, and Government, or Religion established, as to the essentials of them, such motions and minings are intolerable.

Alwaies keep up solid piety, and those fundamentall Truths (which mend both hearts and lives of men) with impartiall favour and justice.

Take heed that outward circumstances and formalities of Religion devoure not all, or the best incouragements of learning, industry, and piety; but with an equall eye, and impartiall hand, distribute favours and rewards to all men, as you find them for their reall goodnesse both in abilities and fidelity worthy and capable of them.

This will be sure to gaine You the hearts of the best, and the most too; who, though they be not good themselves, yet are glad to see the severer waies of virtue at any time sweetned by temporall rewards.

I have, You see, conflicted with different and opposite Factions; (for so I must needs call and count all those, that act not in any conformity to the Lawes established, in Church and State) no sooner have they by force subdued what they counted their Common Enemy, (that is, all those that adhered to the Lawes, and to Ale) and are secured from that feare, but they are divided to so high a rivalry, as sets them more at defiance against each other, than against their first Antagonists.

Time will dissipate all factions, when once the rough homes of private mens covetous and ambitious designes, shall discover themselves; which were at first wrapt up & hidden under the soft and smooth pretensions of Religion, Reformation, and Liberty: As the Wolfe is not lesse cruell, so he will be more justly hated, when he shall appeare no better than a Wolfe under Sheeps cloathing.

But as for the seduced Traine of the Vulgar, who in their simplicity follow those disguises; My charge and counsell to You, is That as You need no palliations for any designes, (as other men) so that you study really to exceed (in true and constant demonstrations of goodnesse, piety, and virtue, towards the People) even all those men, that make the greatest noise and ostentations of Religion; so You shall neither feare any detection, (as they doe, who have but the face and maske of goodnesse) nor shall You frustrate the just expectations of Your People; who cannot in Reason promise themselves so much good from any Subjects novelties, as from the vertuous constancy of their King.

When these mountaines of congealed factions shall by the sunshine of Gods mercy, and the splendor of Your virtues be thawed and dissipated; and the abused Vulgar shall have learned, that none are greater Oppressours of their Estates, Liberties, and Consciences, than those men, that entitle themselves, The Patrones and Vindicators of them, onely to usurp power over them; Let then no passion betray You to any study of revenge upon those, whose owne sinne and folly will sufficiently-punish them in due time.

But as soone as the forked arrow of factious emulations is drawn out, use all princely arts, and clemency to heale the wounds; that the smart of the cure may not equall the anguish of the hurt.

I have offered Acts of Indempnity, and Oblivion, to so great a latitude, as may include all, that can but suspect themselves to be any way obnoxious to the Laws; and which might serve to exclude all future Jealousies and insecurities.

I would have You alwaies propense to the same way, when ever it shall be desired and accepted, let it be granted, not onely as an Act of State-policy and necessity, but of Christian charity and choice.

It is all I have now left Me, a power to forgive those, that have deprived Me of all; and I thanke God, I have a heart to doe it; and joy as much in this grace, which God hath given Me, as in all My former enjoyments; for this is a greater argument of Gods love to Me, than any prosperity can be.

Be confident (as I am) that the most of all sides, who have done amisse, have done so, not out of malice, but mis-information, or mis-apprehension of things.

None will be more loyall and faithfull to Me and You, than those Subjects, who sensible of their Errours, and our Injuries, will feel in their owne Soules most vehement motives to repentance; and earnest desires to make some reparations for their former defects.

As Your quality sets You beyond any Duell with any Subject; so the noblenesse of Your mind must raise You above the meditating any revenge, or executing Your anger upon the many.

The more conscious You shall be to Your owne merits, upon Your People, the more prone You will be to expect all love and loyalty from them; and to inflict no punishment upon them for former miscarriages: You will have more inward complacency in pardoning one, than in punishing a thousand.

This I write to you, not despairing of Gods mercy, and my Subjects affections towards You; both which, I hope You will study to deserve, yet We cannot merit of God, but by his owne mercy.

If God shall see fit to restore Me, and You after Me, to those enjoyments, which the Lawes have assigned to Us; and no Subjects without an high degree of guilt and sinne can devest Us of; then may I have better opportunity, when I shall be so happy to see You in peace, to let You more fully understand the things that belong to Gods glory, Your own honour, and the Kingdoms peace.

But if You never see My face againe, and God will have Me buried in such a barbarous Imprisonment & obscurity, (which the perfecting some mens designs require) wherein few hearts that love me are permitted to exchange a word, or a look with Me; I doe require and entreat You as your Father, and your KING, that You never suffer Your heart to receive the least check against, or disaffection from the true Religion established in the Church of England.

I tell You I have tried it, and after much search, and many disputes, have concluded it to be the best in the world; not onely in the Community, as Christian, but also in the speciall notion, as Reformed; keeping the middle way between the pomp of superstitious Tyranny, and the meannesse of fantastique Anarchy.

Not but that (the draught being excellent as to the maine, both for Doctrine and Government, in the Church of England) some lines, as in very good figures, may happily need some sweetning, or polishing; which might here have easily been done by a safe and gentle hand; if some mens precipitancy had not violently demanded such rude alterations, as would have quite destroyed all the beauty and proportions of the whole.

The scandall of the late Troubles, which some may object, and urge to You against the Protestant Religion established in England, is easily answered to them, or Your owne thoughts in this, That scarce any one who hath been a Beginner, or an active Prosecutor of this late Warre against the Church, the Lawes, and Me, either was, or is a true Lover, Em-bracer, or Practiser of the Protestant Religion, established in England: which neither gives such rules, nor ever before set such examples.

'Tis true, some heretofore had the boldnesse to present threatning Petitions to their Princes and Parliaments, which others of the same Faction (but of worse Spirits) have now put in execution: but let not counterfeit and disorderly Zeale abate Your value and esteem of true piety, both of them are to be knowne by their fruits; the sweetnesse of the Wine & Figtree is not to be despised, though the Brambles and Thornes should pretend to beare Figs and Grapes, thereby to rule over the Trees.

Nor would I have You to entertain any aversation, or dislike of Parliaments; which in their right constitution with Freedome and Honour, will never injure or diminish Your greatnesse, but will rather be as interchangings of love, loyalty, and confidence, between a Prince, and his People.

Nor would the events of this black Parliament have been other than such (however much biassed by Factions in the Elections) if it had been preserved from the insolencies of popular dictates, and tumultuary impressions: The sad effects of which will no doubt, make all Parliaments after this more cautious to preserve that Freedome, and Honour, which belongs to such Assemblies (when once they have fully shaken off this yoke of Vulgar encroachment) since the publique interest consists in the mutuall and common good both of Prince and People.

Nothing can be more happy for all, than in faire, grave, and Honourable waies to contribute their Counsels in Common, enacting all things by publique consent; without tyranny or Tumults. We must not starve our selves, because some men have surfeited of wholsome food.

And if neither I, nor You, be ever restored to Our Rights, but God in his severest justice, will punish My Subjects with continuance in their sinne, and suffer them to be deluded with the prosperity of their wickednesse; I hope God will give Me, and You, that grace, which will teach and enable Us, to want, as well as to weare a Crowne, which is not worth taking up, or enjoying upon sordid, dishonourable, and irreligious tearms.

Keep You to true principles of piety, vertue, and honour, You shall never want a Kingdome.

A principall point of Your honour will consist in Your deferring all respect, love, and protection to Your Mother, My Wife; who hath many waies deserved well of Me, and chiefly in this, that (having been a means to blesse Me with so many hopefull Children; (all which, with their Mother, I recommend to Your love, and care) She hath been content with incomparable magnanimity and patience to suffer both for, and with Me, and You.

My prayer to God Almighty is (whatever becomes of Me, who am, I thank God, wrapt up and fortified in My own Innocency, and his Grace) that he would be pleased to make You an Anchor, or Harbour rather, to these tossed and weather-beaten Kingdomes; a Repairer by Your wisdome, justice, piety, and valour, of what, the folly and wickednesse of some men have so farre ruined, as to leave nothing entire in Church or State; to the Crown, the Nobility, the Clergy, or the Commons; either as to Lawes, Liberties, Estates, Order, Honour, Conscience, or lives.

When they have destroyed Me, (for I know not how farre God may permit the malice and cruelty of My Enemies to proceed, and such apprehensions some mens words and actions have already given Me) as I doubt not but My bloud will cry aloud for vengeance to heaven; so I beseech God not to pourc out his wrath upon the generality of the People, who have either deserted Me, or engaged against Me, through the artifice and hypocrisie of their Leaders, whose inward horrour will be their first Tormenter, nor will they escape exemplary judgments.

For those that loved Me, I pray God, they may have no misse of Me, when I am gone; so much I wish and hope, that all good Subjects may be satisfied with the blessings of Your presence and virtues.

For those that repent of any defects in their duty toward Me, as I freely forgive them in the word of a Christian KING, so I believe You will find them truly Zealous, to repay with interest that loyalty and love to You, which was due to Me.

In summe, what good I intended, doe You per-forme; when God shall give You power: much good I have offered, more I purposed to Church & State, if times had been capable of it.

The deception will soone vanish, and the Vizards will fall off apace; This maske of Religion on the face of Rebellion (for so it now plainly appears, since My Restraint and cruell usage, that they sought not for Me, as was pretended) will not long serve to hide some mens deformities.

Happy times, I hope, attend You, wherein Your Subjects (by their miseries) will have learned, That Religion to their God, and Loyalty to their King, cannot be parted without both their sin and their infelicity.

I pray God blesse You, and establish Your Kingdomes in righteousnesse, Your Soule in true Religion, and Your honour in the love of God and Your people.

And if God will have disloyalty perfected by My destruction; let My memory ever, with My name, live in you; as of Your Father, that loves You: and once a KING of three flourishing Kingdomes; whom God thought fit to honour, not onely with the Scepter and Government of them, but also with the suffering many indignities, and an untimely death for them; while I studied to preserve the rights of the Church, the power of the Lawes, the honour of My Crowne, the priviledge of Parliaments, the liberties of My People, and my owne Conscience, which, I thank God, is dearer to Me than a thousand Kingdomes.

I know God can, I hope he yet will restore Me to My Rights. I cannot despaire either of his mercy, or of My Peoples love and pity.

At worst, I trust I shall but go before You to a better Kingdome, which God hath prepared for Me, and Me for it, through My Saviour Jesus Christ, to whose mercies I commend You and all Mine.

Farewell, till We meet, if not on Earth, yet in Heaven.

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