Eikon Basiliké: The Problems of the "King's Book"

Hugh Trevor-Roper attempts to unravel the mystery surrounding authorship of Charles I's purported last testament.

The books written by Kings and Queens of England (or ascribed to them) have been very few. They have also been very controversial. The Tudors, our most literate dynasty, were too prudent to publish. King James I, less prudent in everything, provoked indignation in England by his True Law of Free Monarchies, and in Scotland by his Basilikon Doron. Queen Victoria’s Leaves from the Highlands was discontinued as discrediting the monarchy. But the most controversial of all such works is the only best-seller among them, the Eikon Basiliké of Charles I. For 300 years the true authorship of this famous book has been disputed and the evidence of scholars has been converted into the ammunition of political and religious partisans. Even now (since Whig and Tory are perpetual characters) the smouldering embers sometimes burst into flame. Perhaps the publication of a new and scholarly bibliography of the work supplies a proper occasion briefly to examine this famous controversy.

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