“The Execution of Charles I”

This is the account from another ‘newsbook’, A Perfect Diurnal of Some Passages in Parliament. On the day of his execution Charles I is led from St James Palace to Whitehall with full military escort. In Whitehall he prays, but refuses to eat – the author adds in parentheses “having before taken the sacrament”, which could imply that was the reason, but I don’t think that was the case. After all, even the Roman Catholic Church ordered to fast before the communion, not after it, and Charles I was an Anglican anyway. I think he just very reasonably didn’t want to risk throwing up on the scaffold and so limited himself to some bread and a glass of wine. Later he is led to the scaffold erected in front of Whitehall, where he starts to build the legend of King Charles the Martyr by making a speech. (He also is dismayed that the block is so low, probably because he does not want to appear undignified when stooping.) He starts by saying there is no point in addressing the crowd, because he won’t be heard, so he is going to address those next to him on the scaffold. He says he does not consider himself guilty regarding the start of the war and then gets into really complicated explanations that even though this implies the Parliament is totally guilty, he prays to God He would not consider the MPs guilty, and lays the blame at the door of some unidentified “ill instruments between them and me”. But he considers himself guilty of another unjust death, and though he doesn’t name names, everybody knows he means the execution of the earl of Strafford, and so this verdict is the appropriate punishment for him, even though its official justification is wrong. He also forgives all the people involved in his execution, like St Stephen, and he prays they may bring peace to his kingdom. It’s a pity his son was not that forgiving after the Restoration.


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