Remembering King Charles I at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle

Following his brutal execution on that cold morning of the 30th of January, 1648/9, King Charles’s body was eventually transported here to Windsor. He was buried in St. George’s Chapel, in the same vault as King Henry VIII and his third wife, Jane Seymour.

I met up with Mr. Rigopoulos of the Royal Stuart Society for a coffee and then we crossed the street to wait to be let into the Chapel. Whilst we waited, I met several others who were to join us inside – including a man who held a beautiful wreath from the RSS for Charles I.

We were ushered into the Castle and then the Chapel at 5pm. We then made our way into the Quire. There, I had the honour of sitting in the Garter Stalls with only a handful of other people. And, although I rightly was not permitted to take photographs, you can see a panorama of the Quire (in which you can see the ledger stone on the floor which states that Charles I and Henry VIII were buried there) by going to the website College of St. George.

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Opposite me and down to the right, high up, was the Oriel Window made for Katherine of Aragon by order of her husband, Henry VIII. The intricate woodcarving throughout the Quire was done by Baroque master woodcarver Grinling Gibbons. My eyes roamed about the interesting features and then I noticed the hand-rest on the seat beside me. It was a beautifully carved face of a woman. To my right side, there was a figure of a man gripping onto or straddling the hand-rest. There was such attention to detail, that everywhere I looked, there was yet something more to behold. To the far right was the high altar, and before that, rails from the 17th-century. Above the dark wood carvings I have described of the knights’ and canons’ stalls are the vibrantly-coloured banners of the Knights of the Garter.

I had been inside the Chapel several times, but always during the daytime. Being there in the evening, lit by the soft glow of the little lamps on the stands before us, and the candles flickering by the altar, it was almost magical.

The Lay Clerks, comprised of about a dozen men or so, immaculately dressed in traditional white and crimson robes, quietly entered the Quire and took their places in the seats before us. The readings from the Bible were well-chosen, and the memorial wreath from the Royal Stuart Society was placed upon the ledger stone. But the music (plainsong)- oh! it was SUBLIME. I felt utterly transported as if to another time. The soulful sound of their voices was quite possibly the most pleasurable sound I have ever, ever heard.

The Evensong included:

  • Canticles: Victoria Magnificat Tone II
  • Anthem: Cornysh Ave Maria

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The service included Psalm 145:

I will extol You, my God, O King;
And I will bless Your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless You,
And I will praise Your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
And His greatness is unsearchable.

One generation shall praise Your works to another,
And shall declare Your mighty acts.
I[a] will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty,
And on Your wondrous works.[b]
Men shall speak of the might of Your awesome acts,
And I will declare Your greatness.
They shall utter the memory of Your great goodness,
And shall sing of Your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and full of compassion,
Slow to anger and great in mercy.
The Lord is good to all,
And His tender mercies are over all His works.

10 All Your works shall praise You, O Lord,
And Your saints shall bless You.
11 They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom,
And talk of Your power,
12 To make known to the sons of men His mighty acts,
And the glorious majesty of His kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And Your dominion endures throughout all generations.[c]

14 The Lord upholds all who fall,
And raises up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look expectantly to You,
And You give them their food in due season.
16 You open Your hand
And satisfy the desire of every living thing.

17 The Lord is righteous in all His ways,
Gracious in all His works.
18 The Lord is near to all who call upon Him,
To all who call upon Him in truth.
19 He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him;
He also will hear their cry and save them.
20 The Lord preserves all who love Him,
But all the wicked He will destroy.
21 My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord,
And all flesh shall bless His holy name
Forever and ever.

The Canon prayed for Her Majesty the Queen, which I thought very good. I am one of those increasingly rare traditionalists who actually love Queen and country and tradition, so this suited me perfectly.

This leads me to something else, and that is how popular inane and superficial topics can be on social media. Yesterday was the anniversary of the execution of Charles I and yet, unless I am mistaken, #KingCharlesI did not trend on Twitter. But, yes, of course, mind-numbingly stupid/trivial things were trending. Did most news stations mention this at all? It’s not as if it was one of the most important things in British history or anything…

What saddens me (besides the obvious lamentable nature of the event) is that so few people were there. I, at twenty-nine years of age, was by far the youngest person there. What does that say about our society? This event was free and open to the public and yet so few took part in it. I do hope that those who read this might try (if possible) to come next year and be part of this amazing tradition. The history of a nation cannot be remembered – cannot stay alive in men’s hearts and minds – without you.

Sources:
1) The Dean and Canons of Windsor. King Charles I: His Burial and Relics at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.
2) Vickers, Hugo. St. George’s Chapel, Windsor.

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