Portrait of Charles I by Van Dyck


CHARLES I, King of Great Britain and Ireland, second son of James I and Anne of Denmark. His character, weak through inheritance and vitiated by the royal circumstances of his upbringing is to be held in large degree responsible for that succession of events which led through revolution to his tragic end. A weak procrastinator, unscrupulously thankless even to his most devoted followers, obstinate beneath a pretence of compliance, devoutly religious, high-minded according to his feeble lights, virtuous in his domestic life, inordinately proud, weak, dignified, unhappy-all this that we may read in written records, we see in Van Dyck's portrait of the king.

Van Dyck, a descendant in spirit and craftsmanship from the great Venetian masters, a friend and contemporary of Rubens, is the last great master of a school that derived its being from the regal splendor of the feudal tradition. That portrait painting for a century to follow was to show Van Dyck's influence without in any real degree approaching the distinction of the master's work is to be attributed above all to the disappearance of that era of royalty's belief in itself which ended with the Stuarts.

Holding the king's horse in the accompanying Van Dyck portrait of Charles is James Hamilton, third Marquess Hamilton, the king's adviser on Scottish affairs. When the Covenanters banded together, Hamilton courted their friendship in order to betray them. He served both in England and Scotland as the leader of Royalist troops during the civil war. Defeated by Lambert and Cromwell at Preston, and captured, he was tried for treason on the ground that his title as Earl of Cambridge was English. He was beheaded in 1649.

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