Counter-revolutionary transformations of Charles I in Burke, Austen and Scott

Dani Napton, A. D. Cousins


Few would deny Charles I’s uniqueness in British history. The voluminous interpretations of Charles since his execution amply indicate the impact of his myth on subsequent generations. This essay considers mythologizings of the executed monarch by Edmund Burke, Jane Austen and Walter Scott. These three writers, albeit to different degrees and in different ways, saw his pertinence to then-current debates against revolution, that is to say, to advocacy of counter-revolution at the time of or in the shadow of the French Revolution. Specifically this essay focuses initially on Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France which shaped the framework of much conservative thinking from 1790. Thereafter the essay considers affinities between Burke’s text (and his text’s divergences from) non-fiction and fiction by the politically conservative Jane Austen and Walter Scott. The focus is on two pre-eminent myths authored or authorised by the monarch himself which endured into and beyond the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: Charles as the Royal Martyr and Charles as Christ (and, hence, as intercessor for his people).


Counter-Revolution; Charles I; Edmund Burke; Jane Austen; Walter Scott; mythology.

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