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Councillor Sean Holden wants King Charles the Martyr church in Tunbridge Wells to change its name

By Caitlin Webb, local democracy reporter

A county councillor is calling for a place of worship to change its name as he claims it is dedicated to a "dictator and warmonger".

Cllr Seán Holden (Con) wants King Charles the Martyr church to reconsider its name on the 370th anniversary of the "tyrant" king's execution.

Charles I was famously executed after his quarrel with parliament about power led to the English Civil War.

King Charles I reigned between 1625 and 1649
King Charles I reigned between 1625 and 1649

In an open letter to the Reverend Laurence Powell, the councillor criticised the commemoration of "a man who started four wars against his own people in which tens of thousands of English and Scots died".

Despite being considered a martyr by the Church of England, Cllr Holden claims "he was a martyr to nothing but his own vanity".

He wrote: "At this moment when parliament is at the centre of the national consciousness (whichever side of that debate you are on) it would be right to end the commemoration of this Man of Blood as he was called then.

"He invaded the Commons with armed soldiers and he tried to rule without it by levying illegal taxes for 11 years.

"He started two mismanaged wars against Scotland and two catastrophic English civil wars which killed about 4% of the population - twice the rate of World War I.

"All to maintain his supposed 'divine right' to rule exactly as he pleased.

King Charles the Martyr church. Picture: Google
King Charles the Martyr church. Picture: Google

"How can you continue to elevate in your church a man who deliberately and recklessly waged war against people and parliament in every corner of our country and for which the High Court of Justice held him 'guilty of all the treasons, murders, rapines, burnings, spoils, desolations, damages and mischiefs to this nation acted and committed in the said wars'."

The priest at the church said he "appreciates his point of view" but the congregation are "proud of the history".

Rev Powell said: "We are quite proud of the history behind the church and it's the crowning glory of Tunbridge Wells.

"Our church is in a very historical building, it's the oldest building in Tunbridge Wells, established in 1678.

"Many people from London paid for a church including Samuel Pepys."

He added the church has been visited by many notable members of the royal family including Princess Victoria before she became queen.

He claims the wells in the town are known as "The Queen's Wells" as the wife of King Charles I often visited.

"He started two mismanaged wars against Scotland and two catastrophic English civil wars which killed about 4% of the population - twice the rate of World War I" - Cllr Seán Holden

Rev Powell has admitted the dedication is "somewhat hard to comprehend" but his faith believe the king sacrificed his life for the church.

He added: "The 1662 Book of Common Prayer advises that Charles I should be commemorated as a martyr of the church.

"A number of saints and martyr’s have equally committed atrocities in the past.

"This is not something to be proud of as Christians but it is part of our history and heritage and should not be forgotten but be used as example for implementing change."

The "thriving" place of worship in Warwick Park is one of only a handful of active churches which commemorate King Charles I.

It is also one of a few churches in the country built in the latter 17th century.

He added: "It’s incredibly difficult to rename a church and furthermore, we have absolutely no intention of doing so."

The church is hosting a lecture by Revd Canon Prof Mark Chapman from the University of Oxford to discuss the history of how King Charles I is considered a martyr on Saturday, January 26 from 2pm.

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