Charles I was said to be the only king of England ever to have been crowned in white. To opponents he was the White King of the prophesies of Merlin, a tyrant destined for a violent end. His supporters later declared that the white robes were the vestments of a future martyr. Yet the White King sobriquet is unfamiliar today.
In popular memory Charles is recalled as a failed monarch, executed at the hands of his own subjects. This ultimate defeat is read back across his life, to the moment he was born a frail infant marked out by disability. In Shakespeare’s Richard III, the king’s twisted spine was an outward sign of a deformed soul. Similarly, the weak legs and lingual incapacity of Charles’ childhood have been depicted almost as physical manifestations of weakness of character and stupidity.
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