Wednesday, January 30th, is the feast of King Charles the Martyr. This is not a feast in the Episcopal Church Calendar, but it is observed in other parts of the Anglican Communion. There is a chapter of the Society of King Charles the Martyr in the Diocese of Tennessee, a group that advocates for observance of this feast by Episcopalians.
Historically, the puritan leanings of the US, as well as the republican triumph of the Revolutionary War, mean that Americans have been at the least ambivalent about the commemoration. That said, I believe that if some among us can hod their nose and accept the inclusion of Archbishop William Laud in the calendar, then we can certainly look again at King Charles the Martyr. Below are some articles and blog posts on the topic.
The Case for Charles, by J. Robert Wright
“Be ready always to give account to anyone who asks of you a reason for the hope that is within you, but do it with gentleness and reverence.” I Peter 3:15.The Commemoration in which we are engaged this morning is part of an international movement for the recovery of Anglican identity. King Charles the Martyr d. 1649 was commemorated in the Prayer Book of the Church of England from 1662 to 1859, then he was dropped. He never quite made it to the first American Prayer Book of 1789-90 because of our country’s need for distance from monarchy at that time. Whether or not the Queen’s Printers had statutory authority to remove his name from the English Kalendar in 1859 when the State Services were terminated [I think they did not], he did finally re-enter an official English liturgical calendar in 1980 with the publication of the Alternative Service Book of the Church of England in that year. Of course he has also entered the calendars of some other Anglican churches throughout the world, such as Canada. But most remarkable of all is the fact in this 21st-century post-deconstructionism world of searches for identity, that Charles as “King and Martyr” has been clearly and explicitly retained in the new calendar of the very modern Common Worship volume of the Church of England, just published in the year 2000. Whatever the word “martyr” may mean, and there are various acceptable definitions, the modern-day Church of England clearly recognizes him as a “martyr.” The Commemoration of King Charles the Martyr is on the rise, even in official circles, in liturgical calendars, in special services, in shrines and memorials, and in other ways. There is a growing realization that he is part of who we are as Anglicans, and even in the Episcopal Church, in addition to the long-standing witness of the Society of King Charles the Martyr and other groups, The Anglican Society, which I serve as President, has by official action of its Executive Committee resolved to work for the addition of his name to the calendar of the Episcopal Church.Charles could have avoided martyrdom if he had agreed to give up his witness to the catholic faith and order that is an essential ingredient of classical Anglicanism, in particular if he had agreed to settle for a church without bishops.
Re-thinking Charles the Martyr, by Fr. Sam Keyes
This Saturday past I took the rare opportunity to attend the Annual Mass of the Society of King Charles the Martyr, held at All Saints, Ashmont. (All Saints is, by the way, a delightful Anglo-Catholic parish with a wonderful choir ministry with boys from the neighborhood.) I’ve never had any particular devotion to Charles. I confess that I went — and I probably wasn’t the only one — for the spectacle of it all. Strange as they can be (and SKCM is probably the strangest, from most perspectives), there is something deeply appealing about these old Catholic societies in Anglicanism. It thrills me that they exist at all, and that they continue to exist.
For a longer treatment, check out this article from The Living Church archive.