The last words of Charles I

Charles I

Charles I was the first of the British monarchs to be put on trial for treason and it lead to his execution. His figure is considered to be most controversial: as a man he was admirable, sincerely religious, a faithful husband and a loving father; as a king he is said to be dishonourable and untrustworthy.

The execution of Charles I, lead to an eleven year gap in the rule of the Stuarts and the rise to supreme power of Oliver Cromwell - whose signature can be clearly seen on the death warrant of Charles.

Charles was put on trial in London on January 1st 1649. He was accused of being a "tyrant, traitor and murderer; and a public and implacable enemy to the Commonwealth of England." He was to be tried by 135 judges who would decide if he was guilty or not. In fact only 68 turned up for the trial. Those who did not were less than happy about being associated with the trial of the king – the concept of the Kings divine right to rule was too strong at that time.

The Chief Judge was a man called Richard Bradshaw. He knew that putting Charles on trial was not popular and he actually feared for his own life. He had made for himself a special hat which had metal inside it to protect his head against an attack. It was Bradshaw who read out the charge against Charles; that he acted "out of a wicked design to erect and uphold in himself an unlimited and tyrannical power to rule according to his will, and to overthrow the rights and liberties of the people of England."

The hall where the king was tried was packed with soldiers - to protect the judges or to make sure that the king did not escape. The public was not allowed into the hall until after the charge had been read out. At the trial, Charles refused to defend himself. He did not recognise the legality of the court. He also refused to take off his hat as a sign of respect to the judges who did attend.

The Chief Judge announced the judgment of the court : that he, the said Charles Stuart, as a tyrant, traitor, murderer and public enemy to the good of this nation, shall be put to death by severing of his head from his body."

When the judgment of the court was announced, Charles finally started to defend himself. He was told that his chance had gone and the king of England was bundled out of the court by the guarding soldiers.

Charles was executed on January 30, 1649. The man who was to execute Charles refused to do it. Very quickly, another man and his assistant was found. They were paid 100 pounds and were allowed to wear masks so that no-one would ever know who they were.

At nearly 2.00 o’clock in the afternoon, Charles was lead to the scaffold. He had asked to wear thick underclothes under his shirt as he was very concerned that if he shivered in the cold, the crowd might think that he was scared. Charles gave a last speech to the crowd but very few could hear him.

Charles

Write a speech on behalf of Charles I in which he accuses his subjects of treason and defends his God-given right to rule. State the King’s good intentions towards his country and his subjects.

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