Project Canterbury

Eikon Basilike,
Or, The King's Book

Edited by Edward Almack

London: A. Moring, Limited, At the De la More Press, 1904.
text from an "advance copy" of the first edition, 1649.


12. Upon the Rebellion, and troubles In Ireland.

THE Commotions in Ireland were so sudden, and so violent, that it was hard at first either to discerne the rise, or apply a remedy to that precipitant Rebellion.

Indeed, that sea of bloud, which hath there been cruelly and barbarously shed, is enough to drowne any man in eternall both infamy and misery, whom God shall find the malicious Authour or Instigator of its effusion.

It fell out, as a most unhappy advantage to some mens malice against me; that when they had impudence enough to lay any thing to my charge, this bloudy opportunity should be offered them, with which I must be aspersed. Although there was nothing which could be more abhorred to me, being so full of sin against God, disloyalty to my selfe, and destructive to my Subjects.

Some men took it very ill not to be believed, when they affirmed, that what the Irish Rebels did, was done with my privity (at least) if not by my Commission: But these knew too well, that it is no news for some of my Subjects to fight, not onely without my Commission, but against my Command, and Person too; yet all the while to pretend, they fight by my Authority, and for my Safety.

I would to God the Irish had nothing to alledge for their imitation against those, whose blame must needs be the greater, by how much Protestant Principles are more against all Rebellion against Princes, then those of Papists. Nor will the goodnesse of mens intentions excuse the scandall, and contagion of their Examples.

But who ever faile of their Duty toward me, I must bear the blame; this Honour my Enemies have alwaies done me, to think moderate injuries not proportionate to me, nor competent trialls, either of my patience under them, or my pardon of them.

Therefore with exquisite malice they have mixed the gall and vinegar of falsity and contempt, with the cup of my Affliction; Charging me not only with untruths, but such, as wherein I have the greatest share of losse and dishonour by what is committed; whereby (in all Policy, Reason, and Religion, having least cause to give the least consent, and most grounds of utter detestation) I might be represented by them to the world the more inhumane and barbarous: Like some Cyclopick monster, whom nothing will serve to eat and drink, but the flesh and blood of my own Subjects; in whose common welfare my interest lies as much as some mens doth in their perturbations: who think they cannot doe well but in evill times, nor so cunningly as in laying the odium of those sad events on others, wherewith themselves are most pleased, and whereof they have been not the least occasion.

And certainly, tis thought by many wise men, that the preposterous rigour, and unreasonable severity, which some men carried before them in England, was not the least incentive, that kindled, and blew up into those horrid flames, the sparkes of discontent, which wanted not pre-disposed fewell for Rebellion in Ireland; where despaire being added to their former discontents, and the feares of utter extirpation to their wonted oppressions, it was easie to provoke to an open Rebellion, a people prone enough, to break out to all exorbitant violence, both by some Principles of their Religion, and the naturall desires of liberty; both to exempt themselves from their present restraints, and to prevent those after rigours, wherewith they saw themselves apparently threatned, by the covetous zeal, and uncharitable fury of some men, who think it a great Argument of the truth of their Religion, to endure no other but their own.

God knowes, as I can with Truth wash my hands in Innocency, as to any guilt in that Rebellion; so I might wash them in my Teares, as to the sad apprehensions I had, to see it spread so farre, and make such waste. And this in a time, when distractions, and jealousies here in England, made most men rather intent to their own safety, or designes they were driving, then to the relief of those, who were every day inhumanely butchered in Ireland: Whose teares and bloud might, if nothing else, have quenched, or at least for a time, repressed and smothered those sparks of Civill dissentions, and Jealousies, which in England some men most industriously scattered.

I would to God no man had been lesse affected with Ireland, sad estate then my self; I offered to goe my self in Person upon that expedition; But some men were either afraid I should have any one Kingdome quieted; or loath they were to shoot at any mark here lesse then my self; or that any should have the glory of my destruction but themselves. Had my many offers been accepted, I am confident neither the ruine had been so great, nor the calamity so long, nor the remedy so desperate.

So that, next to the sin of those, who began that Rebellion, theirs musts needs be: who either hindred the speedy suppressing of it by Domestick dissentions, or diverted the Aides, or exasperated the Rebells to the most desperate resolutions and actions, by threatning all extremities, not only to the known heads, and chief incendiaries, but even to the whole community of that Nation; Resolving to destroy Root and Branch, men, women and children; without any regard to those usuall pleas for mercy, which Conquerours, not wholly barbarous, are wont to hear from their own breasts, in behalf of those, whose oppressive faces, rather then their malice, engaged them; or whose imbecility for Sex and Age was such, as they could neither lift up a hand against them, nor distinguish between their right hand and their left: Which preposterous, and (I think) un-evangelicall Zeal is too like that of the rebuked Disciples, who would goe no lower in their revenge, then to call for fire from Heaven upon whole Cities, for the repulse or neglect of a few; or like that of Jacobs sons, which the Father both blamed and cursed: chusing rather to use all extremites, which might drive men to desperate obstinacy, then to apply moderate remedies; such as might punish some with exemplary Justice, yet disarme others, with tenders of mercy upon their submission, and our protection of them, from the fury of those, who would soon drown them, if they refused to swim down the popular stream with them.

But some kind of Zeale counts all mercifull moderation, lukewarmnesse; and had rather be cruell then counted cold, and is not seldome more greedy to kill the Bear for his skin, then for any harme he hath done. The confiscation of mens estates being more bene-ficiall, then the charity of saving their lives, or reforming their Errours.

When all proportionable succours of the poor Protestants in Ireland (who were daily massacred, and overborne with numbers of now desperate Enemies) was diverted and obstructed here; I was earnestly entreated, and generally advised by the chief of the Protestant party there, to get them some respite and breathing by a cessation, without which they saw no probability (unlesse by miracle) to preserve the remnant that had yet escaped: God knowes with how much commiseration and solicitous caution I carried on that businesse, by persons of Honour and Integrity, that so I might neither incourage the Rebells Insolence, not discourage the Protestants Loyalty and Patience.

Yet when this was effected in the best sort, that the necessity and difficulty of affaires would then permit, I was then to suffer again in myreputation and Honour, because I suffered not the Rebels utterly to devour the remaining handfuls of the Protestants there.

I thought, that in all reason, the gaining of that respite could not be so much to the Rebels advantages (which some have highly calumniated against me) as it might have been for the Protestants future, as well as present safety; If during the time of that Cessation, some men had had the grace to have laid Ireland, sad condition more to heart; and laid aside those violent motions, which were here carried on by those, that had better skill to let bloud than to stanch it.

But in all the misconstructions of my actions, (which are prone to find more credulity in men to what is false, and evill, than love or charity to what is true and good) as I have no Judge but God above me, so I can have comfort to appeale to his omniscience, who doth not therefore deny my Innocence, because he is pleased so farre to try my patience, as he did his servant Job's.

I have enough to doe to look to my owne Conscience, and the faithfull discharge of my Trust as a KING; I have scarce leisure to consider those swarmes of reproaches, which issue out of some mens mouthes and hearts, as easily as smoke, or sparks doe out of a fornace; Much lesse to make such prolix Apologies, as might give those men satisfaction: who conscious to their owne depth of wickednesse, are loath to believe any man not to be as bad as themselves.

'Tis Kingly to doe well, and heare ill: If I can but act the one, I shall not much regard to beare the other.

I thank God I can heare with patience, as bad as my worst enemies can falsly say. And I hope I shall still doe better than they desire, or deserve I should.

I believe it will at last appear, that they who first began to embroyle my other Kingdomes, are in great part guilty, if not of the first letting out, yet of the not-timely stopping those horrid effusions of bloud in Ireland.

Which (whatever my Enemies please to say, or thinke) I looke upon, as that of my other Kingdomes, exhausted out of my owne veins; no man being so much weakned by it, as my selfe; And I hope, though mens unsatiable cruelties never will, yet the mercy of God will at length say to his justice, It is enough: and command the Sword of Civill Warres to sheath it self: his mercifull justice intending, I trust, not our utter confusion, but our cure: the abatement of our sinnes, not the desolating of these Nations.

O my God, let those infinite mercies prevent us once againe, which I and my Kingdomes have formerly abused, and can never deserve, should be restored.

Thou seest how much cruelty among Christians is acted under the colour of Religion; as if we could not be Christians, unlesse we crucifie one another.

Because we have not more loved thy Truth, and practiced in charity, thou hast suffered a Spirit of Errour and bitternesse, of mutuall and mortall hatred to rise among us.

O Lord, forgive wherein we have sinned, and sanctifie what we have suffered.

Let our Repentance be our recovery, as our great sinnes have been our ruine.

Let not the miseries I and my Kingdomes have hitherto suffered seeme small to thee: but make our sins appeare to our consciences, as they are represented in the glasse of thy judgments; for thou never punishest small failings with so severe afflictions.

O therefore, according to the multitude of thy great mercies, pardon our sinnes, and remove thy judgements which are very many, and very heavy.

Yet let our sinnes be ever more grievous to us, than thy judgments; and make us more willing to repent, than to be relieved; first give us the peace of penitent consciences, and then the tranquillity of united Kingdomes.

In the sea of our Saviours bloud drowne our sinnes, and through this red sea of our own bloud bring us at last to a state of piety, peace, and plenty.

As my publique relations to all, make Me share in all My Subjects sufferings; so give Me such a pious sense of them, as becomes a Christian King, and a loving Father of My People.

Let the scandalous and unjust reproaches cast upon Me, be as a breath, more to kindle my compassion; Give me grace to heap charitable coles of fire upon their heads to melt them, whose malice or cruell Zeale hath kindled, or hindred the quenching of those flames, which have so much wasted my three Kingdomes.

O rescue and assist those poore Protestants in Ireland, whom thou hast hitherto preserved.

And lead those in the waies of thy saving Truths, whose ignorance or errours have filled them with rebellious and destrustive principles; which they act under an opinion, That they doe thee good service.

Let the hand of thy justice be against those, who maliciously and despitefully have raised, or fomented those cruell and desperate Warres.

Thou that art far from destroying the Innocent with the Guilty, and the Erroneous with the Malicious; Thou that hadst pity on Niniveh for the many Children that were therein, give not over the whole stock of that populous and seduced Nation, to the wrath of those, whose covetousnesse makes them cruell1; nor to their anger, which is too fierce, and therefore justly cursed.

Preserve, if it be thy will, in the midst of the fornace of thy severe justice a Posterity, which may praise thee for thy mercy.

And deale with Me, not according to mans unjust reproaches, but according to the Innocency of my hands in thy sight.

If I have desired, or delighted in the wofull day of my Kingdomes calamities, if I have not earnestly studied, and faithfully endeavoured the preventing and composing of these bloudy distractions; then let thy hand be against me, and my Fathers house. O Lord, thou seest I have enemies enough of men; as I need not, so I should not dare thus to imprecate thy curse on me and mine, if my Conscience did not witnesse my integrity, which thou O Lord knowest right well; But I trust not to my owne merit, but thy mercies; spare us O Lord, and be not angry with us for ever.