Charles I: Speech on the Scaffold

(1649)

Charles I (r. 1625–1649) was the second of the Stuart dynasty to reign over England. In 1642 a war broke out between forces loyal to the English Parliament and those “Royalist” or “Cavalier” forces loyal to the king. The division was also a religious one, with extreme Protestant “Puritans” supporting Parliament and backers of the traditional Church of England supporting the king. After many vicissitudes, Charles I was captured, tried, and condemned to death on the charge of levying war against Parliament. January 30, 1649, was set as the day of execution. As was the custom, the king was allowed to make a speech before his execution, although his executioners took steps to keep the crowds too distant to actually hear it. He was accompanied by the clergyman of his choice, Bishop William Juxon of London, a member of the “high church” faction that the king had always supported. Few of the large crowd gathered to witness the execution (which included both supporters and...

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Engraving of Charles I by William Faithorne (Yale Center for British Art)

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