Some initial thoughts on the point of view taken in ‘Eikon Basilike’ – revealing the character of King Charles I

(Title page to the ‘Eikon Basilike’)

Supposedly, the ‘Eikon Basilike’ was written by King Charles I to describe his situation that led to and took place in the English Civil War.  There is much speculation if he had written it or not but I tend to feel that King Charles I did in fact write at least most of the book. 

As I read the ‘Eikon Basilike’ I can see certain patterns of thinking, reflecting a certain point of view and perspective on things.  Many of these seem very personal.  That is to say, it reflects a personal perspective to the problems discussed.  They also seem to show a close personal relationship with the situations described with definite feelings about the details of the matter.  I can see certain themes portrayed in the ‘Eikon Basilike’.

Themes about the personal religion of King Charles I and his point of view:

–          Following Christianity is more important than anything else.  He felt he had a duty as a Christian King to behave a certain way. 

–          He tended to be idealistic more than realistic.  In other words, he expected things to go the way that Christian idealism and common sense said it would and not how things really worked in realilty. In short, King Charles I was very idealistic.  It seems to me that this may have been one of the big faults and failure of King Charles I and helped to create the problems with Parliament.  By following idealism he neglected and did not take into consideration other factors that take place in the real world.  This is a common problem with idealism and is seen a lot in Christian idealism to this day.

–          The heavenly crown is more important than the earthly crown.  He repetitively expressed this fact.  His heavenly crown referred to his needing to be free of sin and to be pure.  Many of his decisions, then, were made with this point of view in mind.  Again we see that lack of looking at the realistic situation in his point of view.

–          Being Christian, he emphasized Christian values, such as the need of prayer and forgiveness of enemies.

–          He put great emphasis on his Conscience.  There is continual reference to his attempt at keeping his Conscience clean, and that other people should also seek to keep their Conscience clean.

–          He seemed to hint that the English Civil War was God’s punishment for having Stafford executed.  Most certainly, this preyed upon his mind.

–           He was very influenced by the psalms.  A lot of the prayers at the end of each chapter quotes the psalms.  He probably sought comfort in them as many of the prayers in the psalms describe a similar situation he was in.

Themes about people:

–          People often have evil intentions and seeking their own interests.  He makes many references to how a lot of the problems were caused by this.

–          People often will deceive you.  He mentions things like how people tell you one thing and do another.  He seemed to feel this is basically what Parliament did.

–          The crowd or mob is not to be trusted.  He makes mention of how the mob made people do things they may not of normally done.

Themes about relationships with people:

–          He felt that if he gave something to people, people would give in return.  This particularly speaks of Parliament.  He hinted that many of the concessions he gave to Parliament was meant to inspire them to give him concessions, which they usually didn’t.  This appeared to make him suspicious of people in Parliament and made it so that he didn’t trust them.

–          He assumed people would think as he thought.  For example, if he sought a resolution so they would they. 

–          A person must do their duty and everything will fall into place.  In other words, if people did things in the ‘prescribed way’, there would be no problems.  By ‘prescribed way’ I mean the perceived social conventions of politeness, courtesy, and Christian duty.

It seems that much of these points of view fit the character of King Charles I and reflect much of his behavior.

It seems to show a character that, as I said, is a very idealistic mentality that had ideas of how things are to work.  These ideas made sense philosophically and in a religious sense, but did not fit the patterns of reality.  This created an attitude of limited scope and unrealistic expectations.  As a result, there were often clashes between the idealistic image and reality. 

It shows a character that is very down to earth and simplistic with good honest, basic values. 

It shows a character that has good intentions and basically means well.

It shows a character of a person who has a set idea of how a person is to behave.  When a person does not behave in this way, it is viewed in a bad way.

It shows a character that is non forceful and tends to expect things to follow the idealistic expectations.

Many of these mentalities play a factor in King Charles I contribution to the English Civil War. 

My feelings, I must point out, is that King Charles I was not responsible for the English Civil War.  He did not cause the hostilites, in my opinion.  His personality, though, helped create conflicts that otherwise might not of been there.  Someone with a more forceful active realistic mentality, I think, could of  helped prevent the conflict.  But, at the same time, we could say that about people in Parliament too.

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Copyright by Mike Michelsen

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

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