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The Commemoration of King Charles the Martyr

by Vernon Staley

chapter seven of Liturgical Studies
(New York: Longmans, Green, 1907).

In all editions of the Book of Common Prayer from A.D. 1662 to A.D. 1859, opposite January 30 in the Kalendar stands the entry, K. Charles Martyr.

In editions which have been printed since the latter date, this commemoration is omitted. And this omission is more remarkable, when we find that in both The Book Annexed, the original MS. copy of the Book of Common Prayer, and also in The Sealed Books, the commemoration K. Charles Mart. is written or printed in red ink, in similar style to the other red-letter commemorations of the Kalendar. The Book Annexed and the Sealed Books are the version of the Book of Common Prayer imposed upon the English Church as Statute Law by the combined authority of the Church and Realm; that is to say, by the joint authority of Convocation, Parliament, and Sovereign. In the Act of Uniformity, xiv. Carol. II., which authorised the revised Prayer Book of 1662, in which for the first time the commemoration of King Charles the Martyr on January 30 appeared, occur the words, following the quotation of the title-page of that Book-- "All which His Majesty having duly considered hath fully approved and allowed the same, and recommended to this present Parliament, that the said Book of Common Prayer, and the Form of Ordination and Consecration of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, with the Alterations and Additions, which have been so made and presented to his Majesty by the said Convocations [of the Provinces of Canterbury and York], be the Book, which shall be appointed to be used by all that Officiate in all Cathedral and Collegiate Chappells, and in all Chappels and Colledges and Halls in both the Universities, and the Colledges of Eaton and Winchester, and in all Parish-Churches and Chappels within the Kingdom of England." As the Kalendar formed the part of the Book thus imposed as Statute Law by Convocation, Parliament, and the King, the observations of all the red-letter commemorations, King Charles the Martyr on January 30, as we have said, is included; and the omission of this commemoration from the Kalendar since A.D. 1859 has been made without the authority of either Convocation, Parliament, or Sovereign, acting independently if each other or in lawful combination. How then has the commemoration of January 30 been removed? It has been solely by the will of the printers of modern times, and without any authority whatsoever. According to the Act of Uniformity of Charles II., to which reference has been made, the commemoration of King Charles the Martyr stands, as far as the Kalendar is concerned, on precisely the same footing as other red-letter days of January-- The Circumcision, The Epiphany, The Conversion of St. Paul: and from this point of view, its observation is equally binding as that of the other three red-letter commemorations named. It is surely a monstrous thing that the printers since 1850 should have been allowed, unchecked by the authorities, to perpetuate this violent infringement of the terms of the Act of Uniformity of 1662. And certainly copies of the Book of Common Prayer so mutilated do not represent the Book Annexed, or the Sealed Books, which contain the commemoration of January 30, and which form the legal standard of the Prayer Book. It is, moreover, inexplicable that the University Presses, in their recent reprints of the Prayer Book should have omitted the commemoration of King Charles the Martyr from the Kalendar, whilst they have corrected the spelling of "Enurchus," Sept. 7, to "Evurtius"'; and corrected "hand" to "hands" in the seventh verse of the Benedictus; and added the previously omitted "the" before "dead," in the Collect for Advent Sunday; and deleted "well" before "pleased," in the fifteenth Offertory Sentence; the last three corrections being made to bring the Book into conformity with the Book Annexed, as the legal standard. The plea that the State Service for January 30 having been cancelled by royal authority, of which proceeding I shall speak later, the red-letter commemoration of King Charles the Martyr is likewise cancelled, cannot be urged; because, in the Book Annexed, whilst January 30 is marked in the Kalendar, as we have said, no State Service for that day is provided. Granting, for the sake of argument, that the service for the day has been lawfully removed from the later editions of the Prayer Book, the commemoration of King Charles the Martyr in the Kalendar stands to-day on precisely the same authoritative footing as it did in 1662-- the commemoration appeared, whilst no special liturgical features for its observation were provided in the Prayer Book. We are therefore constrained to enter our protest on the part of the printers, in arbitrarily tampering with a portion of the Prayer Book as originally imposed by the joint authority of this Church and Realm.

The Book Annexed was signed by the members of the Houses of Convocation on December 20, 1661; and whilst the State Service for January 30 was not included, nevertheless, after the Form of Consecration for an Archbishop, stands the note:--"The Forms of Prayer for ye v. of November, ye xxx. of Januarie, and for ye xxix. of May are to be printed at ye End of this Book." This note also appears in the Sealed Books. This statement may possible be held to qualify what has been said above, as to the entry in the Kalendar standing apart from any liturgical provision for its observance. At any rate that provision was prospective and not actual. The Book of Common Prayer was published before St Bartholomew's Day, Aug. 24, 1662, and came into legal use on that day. Meanwhile, Convocation had been entrusted with the task of compiling the State Services named above. On April 26, 1661, the Service for January 30, together with those for November 5 and May 29, were introduced and publicly read in Convocation, and approved by unanimous consent. Now though these State Services were provided for by anticipation in the Book Annexed, as we have said, they were not in the Book which was submitted to Parliament, and they were not confirmed by the civil authority: they were annexed later to that Book by royal authority. But nevertheless they were sanctioned, though not authoritatively imposed for use, by Convocation. The authority for the religious observance of January 30 was Statute 12 Charles II. c. 30, confirmed by Statute 13 Charles II. i.c. 7. But in neither of these statutes was any direction given as to the service to be appointed for the day, that appointment being left to the King in Council under his royal supremacy. The State Service for January 30, with the two other services, were accordingly considered and arranged, under the King's license for that purpose, in the Convocation of 1662, as we have seen; and when the Book of Common Prayer was published according to the Act of Uniformity, they were annexed to it in accordance with the following order:--

"Charles R. Our will and pleasure is that these three forms of prayer and service made for the 5th of November, the 30th of January, and the 29th of May, be forthwith printed and published, and for the future be annexed to the Book of Common Prayer and Liturgy of the Church of England, to be used yearly on the said days in all cathedrals and collegiate churches and chapels, in all chapel halls within both our universities, and of our colleges of Eton and Winchester, and in all parish churches and chapels within our kingdom of England, dominion of Wales, and town of Berwick upon Tweed. Given at our Court of Whitehall the 2nd day of May in the 14th year of our reign. By his Majesty's command, Edward Nicholas."

A like order has been issued by the sovereign at the commencement of each successive reign. Such an order was issued by Queen Victoria in the first year of her reign, dated "our Court at Kensington, June 21, 1837." Certain changes have from time to time been made in these State Services by royal authority, as in the reign of James II., and in that of William and Mary; but in neither of these cases, apparently, was Convocation consulted.

On January 17, 1859, Queen Victoria issued an order cancelling the previous order made on her accession to the throne for the continuance of the use of the State Services. The Services were discontinued in consequence of addresses presented to the Crown from both Houses of Parliament; and a Statute was passes repealing the previous Acts of Parliament which enjoined the religious observance of November 5, January 30, and May 20. This Statute was 22. Vict. c.2. In Queen Victoria's order just referred to, after calling attention to her previous order for the continuance of the State Services made on her access, occur the words-- "And whereas, in the last Session of Parliament, Addresses were presented to Us by both Houses of Parliament, praying Us to take into Our Consideration Our Proclamation in relation to the said Forms of Prayer and Service made for the Fifth Day of November, the Thirtieth Day of January, and the Twenty-ninth Day of May, with a view to their discontinuance.... We have resolved that the Use of the said forms of Prayer and Service shall be discontinued. Now, therefore, Our Will and Pleasure is, that so much of Our said Royal Warrant of the Twenty-first day of June, 1837, in the First Year of Our Reign, be revoked, and that the use of the said Forms of Prayer and Service made for the Fifth Day of November, the Thirtieth Day of January, and the Twenty-ninth Day of May be henceforth discontinued...and that the said Forms of Prayer and Service be not henceforth printed and published with or annexed to the Book of Common Prayer and Liturgy of the United Church of England and Ireland."

It will thus be seen that the omission of the State Services from the Book of Common Prayer has been effected since 1850, by Royal and Parliamentary authority, without consent of the Church as represented in Convocation. And, what is more serious, this partial authority of the Crown and State has cancelled an order of the Book Annexed, which directs that "The Forms of Prayer for the fifth of November, the thirtieth of January, and for the twenty-ninth of May, are to be printed at the End of this Book." Now this direction if part of the Statute Law of England, authorised by Convocation, Parliament, and the Sovereign; and therefore the action of the Queen and Parliament in 1859 constitutes a distinct violation of the compact between Church and Realm, as set forth in the Act of Uniformity which imposed the Book of Common Prayer in 1662, to which reference has been made above."

Before ordination, candidates for Holy Orders are required to take oath-- "I will use the Form in the said Book (of Common Prayer) prescribed, and none other, except so far as shall be ordered by lawful authority;" and the only authority lawfully and constitutionally exercised in regard to the Services of the Church is the combined authority of Church and State. The clergy cannot be legally required to acquiesce in the omission of any Service recognised in the rubrics or directions of the Book of Common Prayer; and as the direction to print the State Services at the end of that Book is found in the original copy of the Book which was issued by Convocation, Parliament, and the Crown; and as Convocation was not consulted in the cancelling of the State Services in 1850, the order of the Queen and Parliament made in that year for their discontinuance is clearly ultra vires. No Court, giving its judgment impartially, could possibly condemn any clergyman who might think it right to use on January 30, the Service referred to in the last rubric or direction of the Book Annexed of 1662.

It is also to be observed that, even if the acty for the Martyrdom of King Charles I. was imposed by Royal authority alone, nevertheless that form was drawn up and unanimously approved by Convocation in 1662: it had the sanction of Convocation. And to make the action of the Queen and the Parliament in 1859, in cancelling the form for January 30, valid, it is necessary to show that Convocation assented to the discontinuance of that form of Service. No evidence of Convocation being consulted as to the discontinuance of the Service is so far forthcoming. I have the authority of an old and prominent member of the Southern Convocation for saying-- "my impression is, that the Service for January 30 was withdrawn by the independent action of the Crown: if so, the question will arise whether the Crown has the right to this action apart from the acquiescence of Convocation. To this question there can be but one answer, and that is an emphatic 'No.'" If it can be shown from a search into the Chronicles of Convocation that in 1859 that body acquiesced formally in the discontinuance of the Service for King Charles' Martyrdom, then there is nothing further to be said, as far as the use of that Service is concerned. But even then, the entry "January 30, King Charles Mart." remains in the Kalendar as a legally authorised red-letter day of the English Church, the entry never having been deleted either by Church or State. As to how the commemoration of January 30 is to be observed, I do not presume to venture an opinion; but one thing is certain, namely, that some observance is in consistency implied by the fact that the Martyrdom of King Charles the First finds a place as a red-letter day in the Kalendar of the Book of Common Prayer. It may, however, be not amiss to specify some of the liturgical features of the Service for January 30, for the benefit of those who may not have ready access to the original document:--

"At Morning Prayer.--Proper Psalms, vii., ix., x., xi.
"Proper Lessons, 2 Samuel i. St Matthew, xxvii.

"Collect: O Most mighty God, terrible in Thy judgements, and wonderful in Thy doings towards the children of men, Who in Thy heavy displeasure didst suffer the life of our late gracious Sovereign to be this day taken away by wicked hands; We, Thy unworthy servants, humbly confess, that the sins of this Nation have been the cause which hath brought this heavy judgement upon us. But, O gracious God, when Thou makest inquisition for blood, lay not the guilt of this innocent blood (the shedding whereof nothing but the blood of Thy Son can expiate) lay it not to the charge of the people of this Land, nor let it ever be required of us, or our posterity. Be merciful, be merciful unto Thy People whom Thou hast redeemed; and be not angry with us forever; but pardon us for Thy mercies' sake, through the merits of Thy SON our LORD JESUS CHRIST. Amen.

"In the Communion Service, after the Prayer for the King:

"Blessed Lord, in whose sight the death of thy saints is precious; we mangify the Name for that abundant grace bestowed on our late Martyred Sovereign; by which he was enabled so cheerfully to follow the steps of his blessed Master and Saviour, in a constant meek bearing of all barbarous indignities, and at last resisting unto blood; and even then, according to the same pattern, praying for his murderers. Let his memory, O Lord, be ever blessed among us, that we may follow the example of his patience, and charity; And grant, that this our Land may be freed from the vengence of his blood, and Thy mercy glorified in the forgiveness of our sings; and all for JESUS CHRIST His sake. Amen.

"The Epistle, I St Peter ii., 13-23
"The Gospel, St Matthew xxi., 33-42.

"At Evening Prayer.-- Proper Psalms, xxxviii., lxiv., cxliii.
"Proper Lessons, Jeremiah xli., or Daniel ix. to 22. Hebrews xi., 32 to xii., 7."

Mr Lathbury remarks that it is not generally known that two Forms of Service for the Martyrdom of King Charles were issued previously to that appended to the Book of 1662, one in 1661 and the other in January 1662. In the first of these appeared a very remarkable prayer containing a petition in reference to the Martyr. This prayer was cancelled later, and a second form substituted in 1662. The prayer referred to is as follows:

"But here, O Lord, we offer unto Thee all possible praise and thanks for all the glory of Thy grace that shined forth in Thine anointed, our late Sovereign, and that Thou wert pleased to own him (this day, especially) in the midst of his enemies and in the hour of his death, and to endue him with such eminent meekness, humility, charity, and other Christian virtues, according to the example of his own Son, suffering the fury of his and Thine enemies, for the preservation of Thy Church and people. And we beseech Thee to give us all grace to remember and provide for our latter end, by a careful, studious imitation of this Thy blessed Saint and Martyr, and all other Thy Saints and Martyrs that have gone before us, that we may be made worthy to receive benefit by their prayers, which they in communion with thy Church Catholick offer up to thee for that part of it here militant, and yet in flight with and danger from the flesh: that following the blessed steps of their holy lives and deaths, we may also show forth the light of a good example; for the glory of Thy Name, the conversion of our enemies, and the improvement of those generations we shall shortly leave behind us; and then, all those who have borne the heat and burthen of the day (Thy servant particularly, whose sufferings and labours we this day commemorate), receive the reward of our labours, the harvest of our hopes, even the salvation of our souls: and that for the merits and through the mediation of Thy Son, our Blessed SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST. Amen.

It is outside the scope of this article to discuss the history of the various editions of the State Service for January 30, and their variations; reference for information upon this matter may be made to the following authorities:--

Lathbury's History of Convocation, pp. 305 ff,; 314; and History of the Prayer Book, p 334. Cardwell's Synodalia, ii., 671; History of Conferences, p. 383, note. J. H. Blunt's Annot. Book of Common Prayer, Lond., 1885, pp. 703 ff. Procter and Frere's New Hist. of Book of Common Prayer, Lond., 1901, pp. 645 ff.

It is sufficient to say, in conclusion, that humanly speaking, the very existence of the Church of England as an integral part of the Catholic Church, is due to King Charles I. It is true of him that "he that will save others, himself he cannot save." By consenting to regard Episcopacy as merely a useful institution, and not an institution essential to the Church's very being, and by suffering the Presbyterian theory of Church's ministry to be established in the land, King Charles the Martyr might have saved his life. Had King Charles yielded upon this point, the Church would have been destroyed. To forget the Royal Martyr on this day of his supreme sacrifice, is to be guilty of utter ingratitude.

"True son of our dear Mother, early taught
With her to worship, and for her to die,
Nurs'd in her aisles to more than kingly thought,
Oft in her solemn hours we dream thee nigh.

"And yearly now, before the Martyr's King,
For thee she offers her maternal tears,
Calls us, like thee, to His dear feet to cling,
And bury in his wounds our earthly fears."

--John Keble, The Christian Year

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