The Society of King Charles the Martyr is the oldest of the societies associated with Charles Stuart, King of England, Scotland, Ireland, etc.
We were founded at the end of the nineteenth century at the height of the Neo-Jacobitism, a Romantic-Decadent movement which reacted against cynical and self- interested influences in the contemporary politics of the time. The Society, however, was not formed of these political aspirations and has always sought to emphasize the cause of King Charles as a martyr of the Christian Faith.
It was on Easter Tuesday, 1894 that a small meeting was held to form a society under the name and patronage of King Charles the Martyr to work for the preservation and furtherance of the Catholic inheritance of the Church of England. The Hon. Mrs. Ermengarda Greville-Negent was its guiding spirit, assisted by Fr. James Fish, rector of S.Margaret Pattens, London. Fr. Fish had already revived the Feast of the Martyrdom of S.Charles in 1890. In later generations this observance moved to the Banqueting House, Whitehall where the annual High Mass of commemoration is held on 30th January.
In 1937 the Society’s quarterly publication of Church & King commenced and has continued as an important means of keeping members informed of SKCM events and projects, and the publication of sermons, articles and reviews.
Between 1938 and 1955 SKCM was involved in several projects of establishing mission churches under the title of S.Charles. For many years it was hoped that the Society would be able to found and endow its ‘own’ parish. Sadly this was never achieved although SKCM was closely involved in projects in South Mimms and most especially Bayswater, Oxford. SKCM has been able to provide funds over the years for churches that have set up shrines and images of S.Charles. Such funding has been sent as far afield as Japan and South Africa. In 1956 SKCM donated a bust of S.Charles to S.Margaret’s, Westminster where it was set up, most appropriately, facing the statue of Cromwell which stands outside Westminster Hall. A similar bust was later placed above the entrance to the Banqueting House, Whitehall. The ecclesiastical suppliers Faithcraft manufactured images of S.Charles during the 1950s and from 1959 the sisters of S.Mary’s Convent, Freeland also made and distributed images.
The formation of local wards and branches was a significant feature of the Society’s work from 1944 until they started to dwindle in the 1970s. The American branch was founded in 1949 (or before) and continues its work with much success and vigour.
The Annual commemoration of S.Charles’s martyrdom has been kept at the Banqueting House since 1951 and remains a key feature of the Society’s work. The notable vestments that were worn on these occasions were made between 1955-7 of seventeenth century red and yellow applique satin and Genoese velvet (click to the who’s who page to see a photo or the album page to see a close up). The fragile state of the old chasuble lead to the High Mass set being replaced in 2008 with a newly acquired antique set dating from the 1810s.
The Society has an association with the church of S. Katharine Cree, London and it is here that many of our meetings and divine services are held. For many years the
Society met at S. Andrew-by-the Wardrobe. The relics are kept at S. Bartholomew on Stamford Hill. At the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham there is a large image of our Patron Saint with his attributes in the niche near the Orthodox chapel. Both Fr. Hope-Patten and Fr. Stevenson promoted devotion to S.Charles and the Society paid for the recent restoration if the image. SKCM was represented at the post-War Anglo-Catholic Congress and was pleased to be a sponsor of the Christ Our Future celebration, Pentecost, 2000 in London.
Originally SKCM was a wholly Church of England organization. In 1993 full membership was opened to all Anglicans of any province and the Continuing Communion, non-Anglicans being admitted as associate members. In 2010 we became a fully ecumenical Society with no differentiation of membership. Worship continues to be conducted according to Prayer Book rites. The prime work of SKCM has always been to recall the Church to an appreciation of the life and martyrdom of S.Charles and to encourage observance of the feast in parish worship.
In recent years the Society has had its history written in full and this is available at our shop. The five booklets make for fascinating reading with many biographical details of leading Anglo-Catholics and others.