Mass for the executed Charles I, LondonFolk customs are not necessarily limited to Britain's 'common people', nor to celebrations of the seasonal and natural. Thus the continuing observance of the feast day on January 30 to commemorate the execution of Charles I , or Saint Charles as the likes of The Society of King Charles the Martyr or The Royal Martyr Church Union would prefer him to be styled.
Why such a divisive king should be so remembered is hard for some to understand. Perhaps it has something to do with what the historian J.P. Kenyon called "his tristesse, that Pre-Raphaelite droop." Charles for all his intellectual sensibilities was a stubborn and clumsy ruler. He imposed extra-Parliamentary taxation. He abandoned to their fate, albeit reluctantly, Strafford and Laud, his closest advisers. And he led the country into a bloody Civil War .
Nevertheless, every January 30, the anniversary of his execution, sees a Mass held at the place of that 1649 execution, The Banqueting Hall in Whitehall. Beneath the Rubens ceiling Charles had commissioned, framed by the elegant architecture of Inigo Jones , the service takes place at noon, with relics of the martyred saint - or executed would-be tyrant according to your world view - displayed upon the altar afterwards. The service is held according to the 1662 prayer book, transporting worshippers back to a world perhaps more to their liking.
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