The Forerunner of Revenge and the Murder of James I

The death of any king is a time of instability. In 1625, while the line of succession was without question, Charles I faced considerable levels of uncertainty over diplomatic and religious policy. And, thanks to the unauthorized circulation of George Eglisham’s pamphlet The Forerunner of Revenge, he also had to confront the allegation that his father, King James, had been murdered at the hand of the court favorite George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham. Although there was never much foundation to Eglisham’s claims, this episode illuminates a culture of court scandal and the circulation of illicit news in the early Stuart period.

Key Questions

  • What challenges did Charles I face in 1625 as he sought to establish his reign?
  • How does The Forerunner of Revenge, with its scandalous allegations, help us to understand the role of favourites at the Stuart court?
  • How does this episiode relfect upon the circulation – and influence – of ‘news’ in early Stuart England?

Further Reading

  • Alastair Bellany and Thomas Cogswell, The Murder of King James (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015).
  • Alastair Bellany and Andrew McRae, eds, Early Stuart Libels (2005).
  • Roger Lockyer, Buckingham: The Life and Political Career of George Villiers, First Duke of Buckingham 1592-1628 (London and New York: Longman, 1981).
  • Joad Raymond, Pamphlets and Pamphleteering in Early Modern Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

Unless otherwise noted, images in this film are reproduced by courtesy of the Ashmolean Museum and the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford.

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