Execution of Charles 1
Charles I was executed in 1649 after he was found guilty of treason by Parliament. He was also accused of murder and described as a great enemy of the Commonwealth of England. He remains the first English monarch to be tried for treason and beheaded. It is a common event in England’s history and a contentious one. During that time, there was no law stipulating the trial of a King or Queen of England. Thus, Isaac Dorislaus from Holland wrote an order that established a court, which was to try the King. Dorislaus largely based his write-up on ancient Roman law, which stated that a military body or government could oust a dictator. The execution of Charles had a wide range of effects to the people of England and its future leadership. Importantly, it led to a leadership gap by the Stuarts for eleven years from 1649 to 1660. It also saw Oliver Cromwell rise to become a prominent personality in England.
According to the law that was quickly put in place, the trial of Charles I was to be heard and determined by 135 judges. However, only 68 turned up as the other half boycotted to avoid being associated with the historic trial of the monarch. It is important to note that not all parliamentarians supported the trail of the King. But by December 1648, those against the decree were no longer attending parliament sessions, following a Colonel Pride that was reinforced by soldiers. The Rump Parliament comprised of parliamentarians whom Cromwell thought they sincerely supported the trial of the King. These were the only members who attended parliament sessions. However, out of the 46 members of the Rump Parliament, only 26 voted in favor of the decree to try the King of England. This means that even among those who supported Cromwell, there were differences on whether to try Charles I or not.
The appointment of the Chief Judge of the High Court also demonstrated the division among the people and administrative systems. For example, none of the 68 judges who turned up for the trial of the King was willing to be the Chief Judge. Thus, they hired a lawyer, John Bradshaw. Even though Bradshaw accepted to be the Chief Judge, he was aware of the cost of his job as the decision was not popular in England. He even feared losing his own life. It is Bradshaw that read out the final verdict that found Charles I guilty of treason, who punishment was death.
Many historians to-date question the legality of the case, depending on how the trial was conducted. On the material Day of Judgment, the hall was full of soldiers to protect the judges against angry public and ensure that the King does not escape. Members of the public were also not allowed to get into the hall until the judgment was read out. This raised eyebrows over the sincerity of parliament to try the King. In the hall, Charles I did not defend himself, he did not take off his hurt to honor judges trying him. He also did not acknowledge the legality of the court behind his trial. These proved a point to the judges that Charles was arrogant and could not accept his faults, making him a threat to others. It was until Bradshaw read the judgment that Charles I tried to defend himself only to be told that he had squandered his only chance to do so. He was executed on a cold Tuesday, January 30, 1649. The king took the last walk at St. James Park, and had bread and wine as last meal. His execution was delayed because the initial man to do the job refused at the last minute.
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