Did King Charles I write the ‘Eikon Basilike’?

(The frontispiece to Eikon Basilike)

My feelings is that he did.  I was always under the impression that he wrote the separate chapters individually over a long period of time.  These separate chapters were then compiled and put in order by someone else who then had the book published.  This was probably Dr. John Gauden, who was known to of worked on it.  

We know that Gauden was involved with its final form and publishing.  Someone had to be, otherwise it would never of been published!  The king was imprisoned at the time and was involved in a trial.  He didn’t have the time or means to publish it.  And so the statements that Gauden was involved with it does not surprise me.  People seem to think that this proves he wrote it, but why would it?   The King could not do the work necessary to get any book published at the time.  All this only hints that Gauden was the one involved with compiling everything, puting it into a publishable format, and publishing it.  Accounts from Gauden’s wife even show that she saw Gauden working on it and that she saw the book being read to the King to see if he approved of it.  The statement that Gauden “sat up one whole night to transcribe” (which was often used to prove he wrote the book) may very well mean that he did rewrite it in the sense that he transcribed the book from King Charles manuscripts into a readable form for the publishers.  That’s how I always interpreted it anyways.  There are also numerous other people, such as Sir Arthur, Lord Capel, and Bishop Symon Patrick who also stated they saw the King working on and revising the book.  William Levett, esq. also has done sworn testimony that he saw the King working on the book.  There appears to be many people who have seen the King working on the book.

There is a lot of little details in the ‘Eikon Basilike’ that a person who was forging it probably wouldn’t of written (this, by no means, does not suggest that it couldn’t of happened though).  If it was forged it means the person who wrote it gave great thought about details.  Not only that, they would have to know a lot about the little historical details of what happened as well as the life of King Charles I. 

The headings were most certainly done by another person.  Quite a few are written in the third person, such as “Upon His Majesty’s calling this last Parliament”.  This definately shows that another person was involved in the books writing.  But, had it of been written by someone trying to be the King, why would he of written the headers this way?  Wouldn’t he of wanted the impression that King Charles I wrote the whole book and spoke of “My calling of this last Parliament”?  He also spoke of him as “His Majesty”, showing a definate respect and giving King Charles the respect he deserved.  This, again, suggests that a person had taken actual writings from King Charles I and used them. 

I also wonder why someone would of gone through to the work to forge this.  It was released February 9, 1649, just 10 days after the execution of King Charles I on January 30.  He was not sentenced to execution til January 27, 1649, 13 days before his execution.  If someone had forged it with the intent of pretending to be the king then they’d have less than two weeks to do this.  It’s possible someone could of done this.  But, to of done this would of required great personal information about the King and his history that he would had to of known offhand, which would mean he was close to King Charles I.  The chances of an intimate of King Charles doing such a thing is unlikely, though possible.  If it took longer than two weeks to write the book then it would mean that whoever wrote it would of been writing a treatise pretending to be a King that was still living.  Since he was not sentenced to be executed before that date, there would be no reason for someone to think the he would be dying soon.  He’d be forging papers for a living King.  This is an unusual thing for a person to do.  It’s possible, but unlikely.  Not only that, the ‘Eikon Basilike’ shows King Charles I in a good light.  A forger who would of written that document would be in support of King Charles.  Its doubtful that a person who supported the King would of forged a document in his name and published it while he was living.  That would of been disrespectful of the King.

The thinking shown in the ‘Eikon basilike’ also seems to reflect King Charles I mentality.  Many statements in the ‘Eikon Basilike’, I think, show the somewhat simple honest thinking of King Charles I that no doubt help led to the English Civil War.   It reflects his good intentions and that he was never really motivated by any malice or evil intent (which I don’t believe he was).  It also shows his limited scope of vision, of how he didn’t quite capture the overall picture of what was going on.  These are all reflective, I think, of his behaviour and mentality. 

It’s interesting that at the end of each segment there are prayers.  These prayers show great knowledge of the Bible and Psalms in particular.  Considering the religious nature of King Charles I it would make sense he would end the thoughts of his problems with a prayer.

Because of the sensitivity that surrounds the English Civil War there has been great attempts to discredit the ‘Eikon Basilike’.  As a result, there have been many attempts at saying it was not written by King Charles I.  The ‘Eikon Basilike’ actually gave great sentiment for King Charles I after he was executed.  So much so that it alarmed the roundheads.  It made them look bad.  Is it any wonder that people have tried to discredit it?

The ‘Eikon Basilike’, at least to me, seems to give an account of what happened, showing his good intentions, and forgiveness of his enemies.  It does not debunk or criticize anyone.  From what I have seen, the ‘Eikon Basilike’ seems to be a good portrayal of King Charles as a person and his thoughts.

Here is a site that has the complete ‘Eikon Basilike’:

http://anglicanhistory.org/charles/eikon/

Here is a book that talks about the authorship of ‘Eikon Basilike’:

http://www.archive.org/details/whowroteeikonbas00worduoft

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Copyright by Mike Michelsen

This entry was posted in Books, movies, and music, Historical stuff, King Charles I and the English Civil War, People and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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