Today is the feast day of Blessed Charles the Good. Ora pro nobis.
Charles (1083-1127) was the son of St. Canute (or Knud), King of Denmark. His father was murdered when Charles was age five, and his mother Adele took him to the court of her father, the Count of Flanders, in Bruges. Charles became a knight and accompanied his uncle on the Second Crusade to recover the Holy Land from the Moors. Upon his return, he received the County of Flanders from his cousin Baldwin. (2)
Count Charles had a profound love for justice. Every day after dinner, he would meet with three theologians who would explain two or three chapters of Scriptures, lessons to which he listened with great pleasure. He loved God’s Name so much that he forbade any of his subjects to blaspheme or take the name of God in vain. The punishment for blaspheming was to lose a hand or foot. His love for justice made him the terror of evildoers who oppressed the poor, exploited widows, and persecuted orphans. (2)
Charles became so well loved and respected that he was pressured to assume the imperial throne when it was vacated. He, for his part, declined, preferring to spend his time caring for the people of Flanders. Charles proclaimed peace, citing “the Truce of God,” and putting to an end the frequent fighting and violence of the country. He lived without the typical pomp and luxury of royalty of the times, instead streamlining and downsizing his government to better provide for the poor. He decreased taxes on the poor and increased wages. When nobles, whose lifestyles were hurt by his decrees complained, he kindly answered them saying: “It is because I am so aware of the needs of the poor and the pride of the rich.” Everyday, the poor and hungry in his kingdom were fed at his castles, especially when great famine fell across the counties in 1125. (1)
As a sign of his daily penance, Charles went barefoot and wore the clothing of peasants. He attended Mass each day, relying on the priests and clergy he encountered to correct his laws if they violated the teachings of the Scriptures. So convinced of the power of forgiveness, Charles established that all convicted criminals sentenced to death were to confess and receive communion on the day preceding the execution of the sentence.
Eventually, Charles the Good angered enough of his noblemen that they hatched a plot to rid themselves of the do-gooder. They found him at the Church of Saint Donatian, as was his habit, and beheaded him while he knelt in prayer before the alter of Our Lady. (1)
He was beatified in 1884.
Image: Charles the Good. (3)
Research by REGINA Staff
- Portret op papier (15e eeuw) van graaf Karel de Goede – auteur onbekend – in de Sint-Salvatorskathedraal te Brugge