King Charles II orders John Milton's books burned — August 13, 1660
This week marks the anniversary of when King Charles II issued a proclamation ordering the burning of books by John Milton, author of the famous epic poem Paradise Lost.
Milton was politically active during time of the English Civil War and was known to oppose monarchy, rejecting the then-popular idea that kings were divinely ordained by God to rule.
Issued before the release of Paradise Lost, the order called for the burning of two books by Milton defending the overthrow of kings and another book written by radical John Goodwin.
“Milton’s Tenure of Kings and Magistrates provocatively claims that ‘it is Lawfull … to call to account a Tyrant, or wicked king … and put him to death.’ This was published in 1649, just after Charles I’s execution,” explained the British Library’s website.
“Milton was hired as Latin Secretary in Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth. As part of this role, he was commissioned to write Eikonoklastes – meaning ‘image breaker’ – to counteract the flattering view of Charles I in Eikon Basilike, meaning ‘the image of the king’. Milton’s Eikonoklastes (1649) is one of the three books banned in this proclamation.”