A King Denied

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King Charles I was not a popular guy. A little too Catholic-friendly and power hungry, the king was already under much scrutiny when he attempted to abolish Parliament. Indeed, it did not take long for civil war to break out. So the king moved his court from London to Oxford, and at some point during this Oxford-centered campaign, this unpopular king wanted to read a book.

He sent a servant on a mission, saying something along the lines of, “Go to the Bodleian (Oxford University’s library) and fetch me this book.” He scribbled his request on a sheet of paper for the Bodleian librarian to read. And when the servant presented the king’s note before the librarian, the servant received an unexpected reply: no.

Yes, the librarian denied the King of England his book. Imagine, denying the man who demands absolute control! The librarian said only students of the University are allowed to use the library’s books.

Does this lowly, University employee want to die?!

Luckily for him, the King didn’t order a public hanging. The strict and somewhat daft librarian got away with it. I guess the book really wasn’t all that important.

The story is not only a fun party-filler (well, in my opinion anyway), but it says something about Oxford University, something that is still relevant today. For example, the rule about ‘Only students are allowed to use the library’s resources and facilities’ remains intact. The library is a place of work for students to learn and, on a more dramatic level, to advance learning as a whole. This is why the University’s books are precious commodities. This is why a zealous king was denied access.

Last year, I had what the king didn’t—access to Oxford University’s library books. It was a gift and an honor to delve into these resources. Even though I am no longer studying at Oxford, I am extremely appreciative of my time there and the numerous doors it opened for me…literally, I was able to open the doors to many a reading room. Sorry, Charles.

By Madeline Linnell, class of ’17

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