Today (January 30th, 2022), 373 years ago in 1649, King Charles I is executed on a black draped scaffold in front of the Banqueting House of the Palace of White Hall. Purpose built as a stage for the end of the Monarchy and the ascendency of the Rump Oligarchy and eventually the Cromwellian Tyranny. As Oliver Cromwell had said: “We will cut off his head with the Crown upon it.”
The Monarchy would be restored by King Charles I son, King Charles II, but the Monarchy of the Three Kingdoms and eventually Great Britain would not be the same again and has not been since.
King Charles I was a decent man, and a good King, despite what his parliamentary opponents propaganda has said of him. He was no tyrant, and during his personal rule the Navy saw a huge expansion, the wars in Europe ended, and no sectarian or political executions took place. Contemporary writing even speak of “no greater peace has England enjoyed” during his rule. John Pym and the puritan parliamentarians would prove more ruthless and more willing to spill blood than King Charles I however. When parliament was summoned again in 1640 the junto wasted no time, supplanting the Kings prerogatives at almost every turn, committing judicial murders, and sending Mobs to intimidate and brutalized dissenting clergy and members of parliament alike.
He was permitted one last meeting with two of his young children, Prince Henry and Princess Elizabeth. Both were in tears and distraught, Charles tells Elizabeth that she will forget this, and warns Henry to not let parliament make a king of him, nor have any aspirations to the crown whilst his older brothers Charles and James still live. The young Prince declares he would be torn in pieces first. His Majesty says one last tearful goodbye, and spend the rest of his time inconsolable.
The King went to his death with courage and grace. It was a very cold day, and the King requested an extra shirt to wear so he would not shiver from the weather, as he did not want it to be mistaken for fear of death. His last words were to those around him, as he was unable to be heard by the masses which had gathered:
“…For the people, and truly I desire their liberty and freedom as much as any body whomsoever. But I must tell you that their liberty and freedom consists in having of government. Those Laws by which their life and their goods may be most their own. It is not for having share in government, sirs. That is nothing pertaining to them. A subject and a sovereign are clean different things, and therefore until they do that, I mean, that you do put the people in that liberty as I say, certainly they will never enjoy themselves. Sirs, it was for this that now I am come here. If I would have given way to an arbitrary way, for to have all laws changed according to the power of the sword, I needed not to have come here. And therefore I tell you, and I pray God it be not laid to your charge, that I am the martyr of the people. In truth, sirs, I shall not hold you much longer, for I will only say thus to you. That in truth I could have desired some little time longer, because I would have put then that I have said in a little more order, and a little better digested than I have done. And, therefore, I hope that you will excuse me. I have delivered my conscience. I pray God, that you do take those courses that are best for the good of the kingdom and your own salvation…I go from a corruptible, to an incorruptible Crown, where no disturbance can be, no disturbance in the world…”
When the axe fell a horrible groan rose up from the crowd, the like of which had not been heard nor do any desire to hear again…