CHARLES I, letters, autographs, documents, manuscripts

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'You will be Answerable to us, at your highest perrill'

CHARLES I (1600-1649). King of England, Scotland and Ireland.
Letter Signed (a fine signature 'Charles R' at the head) to Thomas Hope of Craighall (1573-1646), 1 page folio with endorsed second leaf, Oatlands, 9 September 1638.

A letter to Charles's advocate for Scotland, written at a crucial time in the path toward the Civil Wars, asking Hope to set down in writing 'clearlie and plainlie' and 'at your highest perrill' his answers to the questions that will be put to him by the king's commissioner.

The letter is partly a telling off by King Charles, partly a thinly veiled threat 'at your highest perill', and partly a plea for assistance. Charles is both seeking Hope's advice in the developing political crisis, but also hoping to win Hope to his side. The letter is perhaps indicative of Charles's political mismanagement, seeking help from one who has caused him so many political problems in the past and willing to place him in a situation where he can potentially cause more damage, which would happen.

Thomas Hope was an accomplished man and highly influential in the breakdown of the political stability of King Charles's reign in Scotland, which would lead to further crisis in England, eventually leading to the Civil Wars. His diary is a key source for historians in understanding this turbulent period. After leaving Edinburgh University in 1592 he entered the Legal profession and gradually made a name for himself. He gained access to the Faculty of Advocates in 1605 and thereafter enjoyed an incredibly successful career. He invested the profits he made in land, notable Craighall in Fife, but he also generously gave to his old university. Between 1625 and 1633 he brought settlement and order to the long disputed state of former church property in Scotland, which had been ongoing since 1560. This led to high favour from King Charles and he was appointed to the Privy Council in 1628. Hope took on a number of tasks which enforced Charles's various policies. However in 1637 Hope expressed dissent for Charles's introduction of the Book of Common Prayer, and over the next decade Hope's support for the emerging Covenanting movement, and criticism for Charles's innovations, while still being a member of the King's government, became a great embarrassment for the regime. At the General Assembly of the Kirk of Scotland in November 1638 he was ordered to support Charles's Episcopal programme, but he refused, yet he was not removed from office. He was eventually imprisoned briefly in 1640, although by then the damage had been done. He was firmly committed to his constitutional ideology, opposed to notions of divine absolutism, but far from being a republican. Hope's actions were hugely damaging to Charles' control of power and his position gave considerable strength to the covenanting movement. In this he can be seen as highly influential in the path towards the Civil Wars.

The letter was written at a time of high tension, it expresses Hope's importance in the political life of Caroline Scotland and his former value to Charles, but it also underlines Charles's increasing desperation.

Oatlands Palace was acquired by Henry VIII and rebuilt by him, becoming a residence for Mary I, Elizabeth I, James I and Charles I, who used it for his queen's residence and was to be imprisoned there in 1647. it was demolished after Charles's execution.

Transcript:

Verso
'Letter from his sacred Sov, 9th Sept 1638, for ansering sever questionnes as salbe moven to me by ye meynes of him uwin his counsellor ressane for me lords commission on set letters 29 october 1638.

Recto
Charles R
Trustie and wealbeloved we Greet you well. Wince in this distracted tymes, manie of our subjects ar lyklie not onlie to assume to themselves; but even labor to put in practise that which may prove preondicialle to our Royall authoritie: And seinge it may not onlie conduce to the good of our service, but is absolutlie necessarie, that our commissi-onar be resolved of all suche doubts, and questionis, as he shall desire to be satisfied in; These ar theafoir to will, require, and command you, as you will be Anserable to us, at your highest perrill, clearlie and plainlie, to set doune in wryte, not onlie your solution and opinion; but lykways what by the laws of that our cuntrie, may be done by us in those particulars that he sall mentione and that he requires your solution and satisfaction in whereof not doubting we bidd you fareweill from our court at Oatlands the 9th day of September 1638.

To our trustie and weelbeloved Sir Thomas hoipe of Criaghallour Advoceat.'

[No: 25667]

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