The impact of the regicide of Charles I on contemporary English notions of time and the future

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Wong, Meng Yan Matthias  ORCID logo

This thesis focuses on the execution of King Charles I of England on 30 January 1648/9. It seeks to investigate and document the impact of the event on the English, specifically its effect on contemporary senses of time. Charles was a king put on trial and executed by members of his own Parliament. Organised by radical supporters of the Army who had taken over the government in a coup, his execution shook the nation to its core. The king was God’s lieutenant on earth, and he was the font of all law and justice. His execution sparked a wave of mourning and commemoration, as well as a sense of loss and psychic disorganization. His death left the country at a crossroads, unsure of how to proceed. What sort of time were they living in, and what did the future hold? Were there discernible shapes and patterns of time? Were these altered by an event as unprecedented as the regicide?

I focus on three groups of writers: astrologers, history writers, and newsbook authors, performing a diachronic analysis of their publications to understand how their ideas of time and the future evolved in the tumultuous time of civil war and regicide. Through a close examination of sources like almanacs, newsbooks, and polemical histories, I conclude that the early moderns tried to normalise the disruptive regicide by embedding it within larger narratives of time. They downplayed the radical nature of the event in search of order, incorporating it within grand narratives of God’s providential plans on earth, of generational changes in society and politics, or of recurring cycles of rebellious behaviour. The regicide gave contemporaries an opportunity to create, clarify, and strengthen their grand narratives and schemes of time.

Smith, David L.
temporality, regicide, Charles I, periodicals, print culture, trauma, newsbooks, almanacs, astrologers, historiography, instant histories, early modern history, astrology, time, future, providence
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge
Research for this thesis was funded by an NUS Cambridge Scholarship by the Cambridge Commonwealth, European & International Trust and the National University of Singapore.