The original King Charles, the only British monarch to be beheaded

Who was Oliver Cromwell?

We use your sign-up to provide content in ways you’ve consented to and to improve our understanding of you. This may include adverts from us and 3rd parties based on our understanding. You can unsubscribe at any time. More info

On January 30, 1649, a crowd gathered in the cold outside the Banqueting Hall in Whitehall, London, to witness an unprecedented event: the execution of their King. At 2pm that cold and grey afternoon, the 48-year-old King Charles I lay his head on the ten-inch high chopping block, and with one swift movement, the axe came down, cutting his head clean off. He remains the only British Monarch to have been publicly tried and executed for treason.

In 1612, after the death of his older brother Henry from typhoid, “Baby Charles”, as he was known, became heir to the throne and was crowned in February 1926 at the age of 25. The year before, he had wed the Catholic Henrietta Maria of France, with whom he had nine children, but their unison offended English Protestants.

He was a largely unpopular King. His shyness and difficulty with a speech impediment gave the impression that he was arrogant and thought of himself as superior. Moreover, Charles — like his father James VI— believed in the Divine Right of Kings. This doctrine meant he believed that only he had the sole right to make laws with any opposition against him being a sin against God. For Charles, an effective government could only be led through a dictatorship.

When he did encounter opposition, he would dissolve Parliament. Within the first four years of his rule, he did so three times with one stint lasting for more than a decade. Not only did he lose support from Parliamentarians but the public too as he, like the Romans, believed that draining the Fens could increase land value. This meant he could therefore collect more tax from the farmers.

But it was his refusal to share power that ultimately lead to his downfall. Parliament became so frustrated that the bloodiest Civil War ever fought on English soil began between Charles’s supporters and the Parliamentarians under Oliver Cromwell.

Although the Royalist army suffered somewhat of a defeat in 1645 at the Battle of Naseby, with Charles being put under house arrest, the fighting continued until 1949.

Charles refused to repent, make peace, accept defeat or give in to the republican authority and he was then put on trial. He had just three days to put his affairs in order and bid farewell to his family. According to his then 11-year-old daughter Elizabeth’s diary, the Monarch consoled her by stating: “Sweetheart, you will forget this.”

On January 20, 1649, his trial commenced but he again refused to comply, he neither entered a plea, defended himself, nor recognise the High Court as legitimate.

Just one week later, he was found guilty of treason with his sentence reading: “This Court doth adjudge that he the said Charles Stuart, as a Tyrant, Traitor, Murderer, and Public Enemy to the good people of this Nation, [and] shall be put to death, by the severing of his head from his body.”

He was then kept under house arrest and once 59 Commissioners signed his death warrant, he awaited his execution. He dined on bread and wine as his last meal and was permitted to take one last walk with his dog in St James’s park.

The Monarch remained defiant until the very end. He asked to wear two shirts so as to prevent him from shivering in the cold as he did not want the crowd to believe he was trembling in fear.

According to his attendant Thomas Herbert, Charles had explained: “The season is so sharp as probably may make me shake, which some observers may imagine proceeds from fear. I would have no such imputation. I would have no such imputation. I fear not death!”

To this day, it is not known who executed the King. It is said that the chosen executioner and Common Hangman of London, Richard Brandon, had allegedly refused to perform the deed with others having to be bribed £100 [approximately £13,370 today] to do so and requested to wear a mask to hide their identity.

That historic morning was one like no other. The King dressed for the cold weather and after praying with Bishop Juxon, he was taken to his bed-chamber in Whitehall Palace where he awaited his summons to the chopping block.

Just hours later, he was taken to the specially erected scaffold where he met two heavily disguised executioners. He could see a coffin covered in black velvet and the low wooden block where he would meet his end. He then turned to the crowd of men, women, and children and said his final words.

Although many could not hear as the Parliamentarians kept the public at a distance, he told the crowd: “I go from a corruptible to an incorruptible crown; where no disturbance can be, no disturbance in the world.”

Putin plots ‘dangerous escalation’ as West warned of tactical failures [INSIGHT]
William given up trying to amend things with ‘lost’ brother Harry [ANALYSIS]
Police chief warns ‘most people are armed’ after burglar shot [REPORT]

He then lay his head on the block and extended his arms as a sign that he was ready and the deed was done. One witness to his execution was the Royal Navy clerk, Samuel Pepys, who famously recorded the events of the Great Fire of London.

Then just 15 years old, Pepys and other pupils at St Paul’s School played truant to witness this momentous moment with him seemingly being a firm Republican. His diary entry on November 1, 1660, revealed that as the King was beheaded, he had said to a friend “the memory of the wicked shall rot”.

Not all were in support of regicide, with one witness stating “there was such a groan by the thousands then present as I never heard before and desire I may never hear again”, according to the Banqueting House website. Some paid to dip their handkerchief in Charles’s blood as they thought it would have healing powers.

Parliament gave permission for Charles’ embalmed body to be buried in the Chapel of St George at Windsor Castle, where King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth II have also been laid to rest.

Source: Read Full Article