The reign of King Charles I was not a successful one. It was marred by civil war, religious conflict, and perhaps worst of all, marital strife. A series of letters between the King and various other political figures (including his wife, Queen Hentrietta Maria, of France) was released by anti-monarchy members of parliament, which sparked a series of damaging controversies that may well have contributed to the end of Charles’ reign.
The third letter appears to be among the most significant, as Charles outright says to the Queen that he does not order her, only requests (“this is an opinion, not a direction”). The letter itself concerns primarily “the D. of Lorrains,” or the Duke of Lorraine. The Duke was likely Nicholas Francis, who had been forced to abdicate the Duchy to his brother Charles IV. The Duke then ended up in temporary exile (as did Charles IV, the actual Duke of Lorraine at the time of the letter’s writing, so it is unclear who is truly being referenced in the letter), unable to return to his land due to the ongoing 30 Years War.
King Charles asks his wife – the sister of King Louis XIII of France – if she would allow the Duke to pass through France back to his land. The King gives his motivation for this request as an intention to acquire a port in western France. The most interesting thing about this letter, however, is that the King requests this of his Queen. In England, the King ruled above his Queen (especially when she was French and a Catholic), yet Charles’ backbone seems to melt away when dealing with her.
This ties in well with several modern example of the government expose. Perhaps most notably, Edward Snowden revealed the NSA’s spying programs, which gathers information about everyone in America (though the NSA claims it did not). The critical element of controversy surrounding these two events is most likely the revelation that power and sovereignty does not lie where the people were led to believe it does.
While in the case of the King’s Cabinet the controversy extended farther (including outrage over the Queen’s religion, nationality and sex), the revelation that the King – the rightful head of state of England – was not the one making important political decisions. And not only that, but he was being meek about it, not even attempting to regain power he lost. In America, power is supposed to reside with the people, and yet we find out from a man who is now a wanted criminal that the government has been lying to us about what it does and how much control we have over it.
If the government can treat us all as criminals and tap our phones without warrants, we cannot truly be in control of our (supposedly) democratic country. Similarly, if the King of England bent like a wet napkin every time his wife looked in his direction, the English people could not be confident that their nation was being led properly by its true leader.
Other controversies also ran throughout the rest of the letters, involving the Queen’s nation of birth, status as sister of King Louis of France, and religion (which happened to be the same religion as the generally-disliked Irish). The third letter did not have much to do with these sides of the controversy, but they’re worth acknowledging, as they too were power kegs left waiting to blow.