Bishop Matthew Wren, father of the architect Sir Christopher, noted his apprehensions about prince Charles in 1623. Wren's observations and fears about the young Charles Stuart proved remarkably astute. Reading Wren's thoughts we experience the uncertainty of the future king's political inclinations, and Charles' vision of a hierarchical, non-Calvinist Church of England was one of his most consistent 'principles'. Wren was also correct to observe Charles' lack of learning in comparison to his father. Whereas James was considerably learned, his son developed exceptional taste in the Arts. As Andrew Marvell illustrated in the Horation Ode upon Cromwell's Return from Ireland, the comparison of the political astuteness of Oliver Cromwell to the refined aesthetic taste of Charles I was a sharp one.

Charles exercised close control over the direction and formulation of policy. This was not exceptional for early modern kings, and certainly there were powerful kings such as Philip II of Spain who did so to great effect. It is vital that the contemporary custom of blaming 'evil' or poor counsel in criticism of government policies is not misconstrued or misinterpreted to give a picture of Charles dominated by a succession of favourites. When examined closely, it appears that Charles was very much the executive. Further, it has been discovered that Charles was in fact a good administrator, and kept control of political processes as the centre of government - notably control of the distribution of patronage, at least after the death of the Duke of Buckingham (1628). The exception to this picture of Charles keeping a firm grasp on the hub of governmental affairs lies with those of the Church of England. It is difficult to untangle exactly how powerful a force William Laud became in directing the Crown's religious policies. Laud was concerned that decisions were seen to be those of the King, and there were occasions where Charles had to be ushered into decisions. However, it would seem that Laud's and Charles' ambitions were most often in accordance. The relationship was symbiotic - Laud essential to the uniformity of the Church, and Charles' authority to enforce the changes necessary in achieving that goal. Aesthetically, Charles cut the figure of a king. One only needs to look at a van Dyck portrait of Charles to observe this, though one must not forget that the artist's own vision was vitally important in creating this image of power. Charles appeared to contemporaries as the epitome of royal dignity. However, appearance alone does not make for good kingship, and Charles was lacking in so many of the prerequisites necessary for strong and competent government. Whereas Elizabeth and James I had been shrewd, Charles was head- strong and lacked political necessity when it really mattered.

Previous chapter Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.