Eikon Basilike

 

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Eikon Basilike,
Or, The King’s Book

Edited by Edward Almack

London: A. Moring, Limited, At the De la More Press, 1904.
text from an “advance copy” of the first edition, 1649.

I endeavoured to have prevented, if God had seen fit, those future commotions, which I fore-saw, would in all likelyhood follow some mens activity (if not restrained) and so now hath done to the undoing of many thousands; the more is the pitty.

But to over-awe the freedome of the Houses, or to weaken their just Authority by any violent impressions upon them, was not at all my designe; I thought I had so much Justice and Reason on my side, as should not have needed so rough assistance; and I was resolved rather to bear the repulse with patience, then to use such hazardous extremities.

But thou, O Lord, art my witnesse in heaven and in my Heart: If I have purposed any violence or oppression against the Innocent: or if there were any such wickednesse in my thoughts.

Then let the enemy persecute my soule, and tread my life to the ground, and lay mine Honour in the dust.

Thou that seest not as man seeth, but lookest beyond all popular appearances, searching the heart, and trying the reines, and bringing to light the hidden things of darknesse, shew thy selfe.

Let not my afflictions be esteemed (as with wise and godly men they cannot be) any argument of my sin, in that matter: more then their Impunity among good men is any sure token of their Innocency.

But forgive them wherein they have done amisse, though they are not punished for it in this world.

Save thy servant from the privy conspiracies, and open violence of bloody and unreasonable men, according to the uprightnesse of my heart, and the innocency of my hands in this matter.

Plead my cause, and maintain my right, O thou that sittest in the Throne, judging rightly, that thy servant may ever rejoyce in thy salvation.

Some may interpret it as an effect of Pusillanimity for any man for popular terrours to desert his publique station. But I think it a hardinesse, beyond true valour, for a wise man to set him self against the breaking in of a Sea; which to resist, at present, threatens imminent danger; but to withdraw, gives it space to spend its fury, and gaines a fitter time to repaire the breach. Certainly a Gallant man had rather fight to great disadvantages for number and place in the field, in an orderly way, then skuffle with an undisciplined rabble.

Some suspected and affirmed that I meditated a Warre, (when I went from Whitehall onely to redeem My Person, and Conscience from violence) God knowes I did not then think of a Warre. Nor will any prudent man conceive that I would by so many former, and some after Acts, have so much weakned My selfe, if I had purposed to engage in a Warre, which to decline by all meanes, I denyed My self in so many particulars: ‘Tis evident I had then no Army to flie unto, for protection, or vindication.

When that first Act seemed too scanty to satisfie some mens feares, and compasse publique affaires; I was perswaded to grant that Bill of Sitting during the pleasure of the Houses, which amounted in some mens sense to as much as the perpetuating this Parliament. By this Act of highest confidence, I hoped for ever to shut out, and lock the dore upon all present Jealousies, and future mistakes: I confesse I did not thereby intend to shut My self out of dores, as some men have now requited me.

True, It was an Act unparaldl’d by any of My Predecessours; yet cannot in reason admit of any worse interpretation then this, of an extreame confidence I had, that My Subjects would not make ill use of an Act, by which I declared so much to trust them, as to deny My self in so high a point of My Prerogative.

For good Subjects will never think it just or fit that My condition should be worse by My bettering theirs; Nor indeed would it have been so in the events, if some men had known as well with moderation to use, as with earnestnesse to desire advantages of doing good, or evill.

A continuall Parliament (I thought) would but keep the Common-weale in tune, by preserving Lawes in their due execution and vigour, wherein My interest lies more than any mans, since by those Lawes, My rights as a KING, would be preserved no lesse than My Subjects; which is all I desired. More than the Law gives Me I would not have, and lesse the meanest Subject should not.

Whose agreeing Votes were not by any Law or reason conclusive to My Judgment; nor can they include, or carry with them My consent, whom they represent not in any kind; Nor am I further bound to agree with the Votes of both Houses, then I see them agree with the will of God, with My just Rights, as a King, and the generall good of My People. I see that as many men they are seldome of one mind; and I may oft see, that the major part of them are not in the right.

….

Nor do I think My Kingdomes so considerable as to preserve them with the forfeiture of that freedome; which cannot be denied Me as a King, because it belongs to Me as a Man, and a Christian; owning the dictates of none, but God, to be above Me, as obliging Me to consent. Better for Me to die enjoying this Empire of My Soul, which subjects Me only to God, so farre as by Reason or Religion he directs Me, then live with the Title of a King, if it should carry such a vassalage with it, as not to suffer Me to use My Reason and Conscience, in which I declare as a King, to like or dislike.

So farre am I from thinking the Majesty of the Crown of England to be bound by any Coronation Oath, in a blind and brutish formality, to consent to what ever its subjects in Parliament shall require; as some men will needs inferre; while denying Me any power of a Negative voice as King, they are not ashamed to seek to deprive Me of the liberty of using My Reason with a good Conscience, which themselves, and all the Commons of England enjoy proportionable to their influence on the publick; who would take it very ill to be urged, not to deny, whatever My self, as King, or the House of Peeres with Me should, not so much desire as enjoyn them to passe. I think My Oath fully discharged in that point by My Governing only by such Lawes, as My People with the House of Peeres have Chosen, and My self have consented to. I shall never think My self conscientiously tied to goe as oft against My Conscience, as I should consent to such new Proposals, which My Reason, in Justice, Honour, and Religion bids Me deny.

Yet so tender I see some men are of their being subject to Arbitrary Government, (that is, the Law of anothers will, to which themselves give no consent) that they care not with how much dishonour and absurdity they make their King the onely man, that must be subject to the will of others, without having power left Him, to use His own Reason, either in Person, or by any Representation.

And if My dissentings at any time were (as some have suspected, and uncharitably avowed out of error, opinion, activenesse, weaknesse, or wilfulnesse, and what they call Obstinacy in Me (which not true Judgement of things, but some vehement prejudice or passion hath fixed on My mind;) yet can no man think it other then the Badge and Method of Slavery, by savage rudenesse, and importunate detrusions of violence, to have the mist of His Errour and Passion dispelled, which is a shadow of Reason, and must serve those that are destitute of the substance. Sure that man cannot be blameable to God or Man, who seriously endeavours to see the best reason of things, and faithfully followes what he takes for Reason: The uprightnesse of his intentions will excuse the possible failings of his understandings; If a Pilot at Sea cannot see the Pole-star, it can be no fault in him to steere his course by such stars as do best appear to him. It argues rather those men to be conscious of their defects of Reason, and convincing Arguments, who call in the assistance of meer force to carry on the weaknesse of their Councells, and Proposalls. I may, in the Truth and uprightnesse of My heart, protest before God and Men; that I never wilfully opposed, or denied any thing, that was in a fair way, after full and free debates propounded to Me, by the two Houses, Further then I thought in good reason I might, and was bound to do.

For I can be content to recede much from My own Interests, and Personall Rights, of which I conceive My self to be Master; but in what concernes Truth, Justice, the Rights of the Church, and My Crown, together with the generall good of My Kingdomes; (all which I am bound to preserve as much as morally lies in Me;) here I am, and ever shall be fixt and resolute, nor shall any man gain My consent to that, wherein My Heart gives My tongue or hand the Lie; nor will I be brought to affirme that to Men, which in My Conscience I denied before God. I will rather chuse to wear a Crown of Thornes with My Saviour, then to exchange that of Gold (which is due to Me) for one of lead, whose embased flexiblenesse shall be forced to bend, and comply to the various, and oft contrary dictates of any Factions; when instead of Reason, and Publick concernments, they obtrude nothing but what makes for the interest of parties, and flowes from the partialities of private wills and passions.

I know no resolutions more worthy a Christian King, then to prefer His Conscience before His Kingdomes.

Is this the reward and thanks that I am to receive for those many Acts of Grace I have lately passed, and for those many Indignities I have endured? Is there no way left to make me a glorious KING but by My sufferings?

It is a hard and disputable choice for a King, that loves his People, and desires their love, either to kill his owne Subjects, or to be killed by them.

Are the hazards and miseries of Civil War in the bowels of My most flourishing Kingdome, the fruits I must now reap after 17 years living and reigning among them, with such a measure of Justice, Peace, Plenty, and Religion, as all Nations about either admired, or envied? notwithstanding some miscarriages in Government, which might escape; rather through ill counsell of some men driving on their private ends, or the peevishnesse of others envying the publique should be managed without them, or the hidden and insuperable necessities of State, then any propensity, I hope, of my self either to injuriousness or oppression.

If nothing but My bloud will satisfie My Enemies, or quench the flames of My Kingdomes, or thy temporall Justice, I am content, if it be thy will, that it be shed by Mine owne Subjects hands.

But o let the bloud of Me, though their King, yet a sinner, be washed with the Bloud of My Innocent and peace-making Redeemer, for in that thy Justice will find not only a temporary expiation, but an eternall plenary satisfaction; both for my sins, and the sins of my People; whom I beseech thee still own for thine, and when thy wrath is appeased by my Death, O Remember thy great mercies toward them, and forgive them! O my Father, for they know not what they doe.

Should I grant some things they require, I should not so much weaken my outward state of a King; as wound that inward quiet of my Conscience, which ought to be, is, and ever shall be (by Gods grace) dearer to me then my Kingdomes.

Some things which a King might approve, yet in Honour and Policy are at some time to be denied, to some men, lest he should seeme not to dare to deny any thing; and give too much incouragement to unreasonable demands, or importunities.

But to bind myself to a generall and implicite consent, to what ever they shall desire, or propound, (for such is one of their Propositions) were such a latitude of blind obedience, as never was expected from any Free-man, nor fit to be required of any man, much lesse of a King, by His own Subjects; any of whom he may possibly exceed as much in wisdome, as He doth in place and power.

But if this be My Right belonging to Me, in Reason, as a Man, and in Honour as a Soveraign King, (as undoubtedly it doth) how can it be other then extream injury to confine my Reason to a necessity of granting all they have a mind to ask, whose minds may be as differing from Mine both in Reason & Honour, as their aims may be, and their qualities are; which last God & the Laws have sufficiently distinguisht, making me their Soveraign, and them my Subjects: whose Propositions may soon prove violent oppositions, if once they gain to be necessary impositions upon the Regall Authority. Since no man seekes to limit and confine his King, in Reason, who hath not a secret aime to share with him, or usurp upon him in Power and Dominion.

But they would have me trust to their moderation, & abandon mine own discretion; that so I might verifie what representations some have made of me to the world, that I am fitter to be their Pupill then their Prince. Truly I am not so confident of my own sufficiency, as not willingly to admit the Counsell of others: But yet I am not so diffident of my selfe, as brutishly to submit to any mens dictates, and at once to betray the Soveraignty of Reason in my Soul, and the Majesty of my own Crown to any of my Subjects.

Least of all have I any ground of credulity, to induce me fully to submit to all the desires of those men, who will not admit or doe refuse, and neglect to vindicate the freedome of their own and others, sitting and voting in Parliament.

Besides, all men that know them, know this, how young States-men (the most part) of these propounders are; so that, till experience of one seven years hath shewed me, how well they can Governe themselves, and so much power as is wrested from me, I should be very foolish indeed, and unfaithfull, in my Trust, to put the reins of both Reason and Government, wholly out of my own, into their hands, whose driving is already too much like Jehues; and whose forwardnesse to ascend the throne of Supremacy pretends more of Phaeton then of Phebus; God divert the Omen if it be his will.

They may remember, that at best they sit in Parliament, as my Subjects, not my Superiours; called to be my Counsellours, not Dictatours: Their Summons extends to recommend their advice, not to command my Duty.

Yet must God be My chiefest Guard; and My Conscience both My Counsellour and My Comforter: Though I put My Body into their hands, yet I shall reserve My Soule to God, and My selfe; nor shall any necessities compel Me, to desert Mine Honour, or swerve from My Judgment.

What they sought to take by force, shall now be given them in such a way of unusuall confidence of them, as may make them ashamed not to be really such, as they ought, and professed to be.

God sees it not enough to desert Me of all Military power to defend My self; but to put Me upon using their power, who seem to fight against Me, yet ought in duty to defend Me.

So various are all humame affaires, and so necessitous may the state of Princes be, that their greatest danger may be in their supposed safety, and their safety in their supposed danger.

  1. To the Prince of Wales.

SON, if these papers, with some others, wherein I have set down the private reflections of My Conscience, and My most impartiall thoughts, touching the chiefe passages, which have been most remarkable, or disputed in My late troubles, come to your hands, to whom they are chiefly designed; they may be so far usefull to you, as to state your judgement aright in what hath passed; whereof, a pious is the best use can be made; and they may also give you some directions, how to remedy the present distempers, and prevent (if God will) the like for time to come.

It is some kind of deceiving and lessening the injury of My long restraint, when I find My leisure and solitude have produced something worthy of My self, and usefull to you; That neither you, nor any other, may hereafter measure My Cause by the Successe; nor My Judgment of things by My misfortunes; which I count the greater by farre, because they have so farre lighted upon you, and some others, whom I have most cause to love as well as My self; and of whose unmerited sufferings I have a greater sense then of Mine own.

The true glory of Princes consists in advancing Gods Glory in the maintenance of true Religion, and the Churches good: Also in the dispensation of civill Power, with Justice and Honour to the Publick Peace.

Piety will make you prosperous; at least it will keep you from being miserable; nor is he much a loser, that loseth all, yet saveth his owne soule at last.

When you have done justice to God, your own soule and his Church, in the profession and preservation both of truth and unity in Religion: the next main hinge on which your prosperity will depend, and move, is, that of civill Justice, wherein the setled Laws of these Kingdomes, to which you are rightly Heire, are the most excellent rules you can governe by; which by an admirable temperament give very much to Subjects industry, liberty, and happinesse; and yet reserve enough to the Majesty and prerogative of any King, who ownes his People as Subjects, not as Slaves; whose subjection, as it preserves their property, peace, and safety, so it will never diminish your Rights, nor their ingenuous Liberties; which consists in the enjoyment of the fruits of their industry, and the benefit of those Lawes to which themselves have consented.

Never charge your Head with such a Crowne, as shall by its heavinesse oppresse the whole body, the weaknesse of whose parts cannot returne any thing of strength, honour, or safety, to the Head, but a necessary debilitation and ruine.

Your Prerogative is best shewed, and exercised in remitting, rather than exacting the rigor of the Lawes; there being nothing worse than legall Tyranny.

In these two points, the preservation of established Religion, and Lawes, I may (without vanity) turne the reproach of My sufferings, as to the worlds censure, into the honour of a kind of Martyrdome, as to the testimony of My owne Conscience; The Troublers of My Kingdomes having nothing else to object against Me but this, That I preferre Religion, and Lawes established before those alterations they propounded.

Nor would I have You to entertain any aversation, or dislike of Parliaments; which in their right constitution with Freedome and Honour, will never injure or diminish Your greatnesse, but will rather be as interchangings of love, loyalty, and confidence, between a Prince, and his People.

Nor would the events of this black Parliament have been other than such (however much biassed by Factions in the Elections) if it had been preserved from the insolencies of popular dictates, and tumultuary impressions: The sad effects of which will no doubt, make all Parliaments after this more cautious to preserve that Freedome, and Honour, which belongs to such Assemblies (when once they have fully shaken off this yoke of Vulgar encroachment) since the publique interest consists in the mutuall and common good both of Prince and People.

Nothing can be more happy for all, than in faire, grave, and Honourable waies to contribute their Counsels in Common, enacting all things by publique consent; without tyranny or Tumults. We must not starve our selves, because some men have surfeited of wholsome food.

And if neither I, nor You, be ever restored to Our Rights, but God in his severest justice, will punish My Subjects with continuance in their sinne, and suffer them to be deluded with the prosperity of their wickednesse; I hope God will give Me, and You, that grace, which will teach and enable Us, to want, as well as to weare a Crowne, which is not worth taking up, or enjoying upon sordid, dishonourable, and irreligious tearms.

Keep You to true principles of piety, vertue, and honour, You shall never want a Kingdome.

EARLY ACCESS:  Transcription is under editorial review and may contain errors.
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