The trial of King Charles I

Section of An Eyewitness Representation of the Execution of King Charles I (1600-49) of England, 1649 by John WeesopBelow you will find the transcript of the trial of King Charles I as it appears in Howell, TB (ed.) 1816, A complete collection of state trials and proceedings for high treason and other crimes and misdemeanors from the earliest period to the year 1783, vol. IV (of XXI), TC Hansard, London, pp. 990-1018.

The permanent address for the entry: http://thelydianmode.com/?p=2510

182. The TRIAL of CHARLES STUART KING of ENGLAND;
Before the High Court of Justice for High Treason:
24 CHARLES I. A.D. 1649.*

INTRODUCTION

THE following brief Account of some Proceedings in Parliament will serve as an introduction to this important Trial:

January 3, 1648. The Commons resolved, That no further Addresses be made to the King by themselves, nor by any other, without leave of both houses, and those that do, to incur the penalty of High Treason. And declare, They will receive no more Messages from him. And enjoin, That no person whatsoever receive or bring any more Messages from him, to both or either houses, or to any other person.

Jan. 15. The Lords concurred to these Votes.

August 17. The Commons concur with the Lords, that these Votes for non-addresses be revoked.

November 20. The Army present their Remonstrance to the Parliament, for bringing Delinquents to Justice.

Nov. 24. The Treaty at the Isle of Wight voted to continue till the 27th of November.

December 1. Master Hollis presents an Account of the Treaty with the King. And the same day information was brought them of the King’s being removed from Carisbrook to Hurst Castle.

Dec. 5. The king’s Answer to the Proposition voted a Ground for the House to proceed upon, tor Settlement of the Peace of the Kingdom.

Dec. 6. The Members were secured by col. Pride.

Dec. 7. The House of Common appointed a day of humiliation; Peters, Caryl, and Marshal to perform the duty.

The several Votes, 1. For revoking the Votes or Non-addresses to the king; 2. For a Treaty to be had with him; 3. That his Answers to the Propositions were a ground for Peace, voted dishonourable and destructive.

Dec. 23. A committee was appointed to consider how to proceed in a way of justice against the King and other capital offenders.

Dec. 28. An Ordinance for Trial of the King was read.

January 1, 1649. Declared and adjudged by the Commons, That by the fundamental laws it is Treason in the King of England, for the time being, to levy war against the parliament and kingdom.

Jan. 2. The Lords disagreed to this Vote, and cast it out, and the Ordinance for Trial of the King, nemine contradicente.

Jan. 3. The same Vote was again put to the question in the House of Commons, and carried in the affirmative.

Jan. 4. Master Garland presents a new Ordinance for erecting an High Court of Justice for Trial of the King; which was read the first, second, and third time, assented to, and passed the same day. And ordered, no Copy to be delivered.

Same day, Resolved, That the people are (under God) the original of all just powers. That themselves, being chosen by and representing the people, have the Supreme Power in nation.* That whatsoever is enacted, or declared for law by the Commons in parliament, hath the force of a law, and the people concluded thereby: though consent of the King and Peers be not had thereunto.

A perfect NARRATIVE of the whole PROCEEDINGS of the HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE, in the Trial of the KING, in Westminster Hall. With the several Speeches of the King, Lord President, and Solicitor General. Published by Authority, to prevent false and impertinent Relations. January 20-27. A.D. 1649. Licensed by Gilbert Mabbot.

ON Saturday, being the 20th day of January, 1649, the Lord President of the High Court of Justice, with near fourscore of the members of the said Court, having sixteen gentlemen with partizans, and a sword, and a mace, with their and other officers of the said court, marching before them, came to the place ordered to be prepared for their sitting at the west-end of the great Hall at Westminster; where the Lord President, in a crimson-velvet chair, fixed in the midst of the Court, placed himself, having a desk with a crimson-velvet cushion before him; the rest of the members placing themselves on each side of him upon several seats, or benches, prepared and hung with scarlet for that purpose; and the partizans dividing themselves on each side of the court before them.

Artist’s depiction of Westminster Hall during the trial of Charles I

Artist’s depiction of Westminster Hall
during the trial of Charles I
(Click to enlarge)

The Court being thus sat, and Silence made, the great gate of the said Hall was set open, to the end that all persons, without exception, desirous to see or hear, might come into it. Upon which the Hall was presently filled, and silence again ordered.

This done, colonel Thomlinson, who had the charge of the Prisoner, was commanded to bring him to the Court; who within a of an hour’s space brought him, attended with about twenty officers with partizans, marching before him, there being other gentlemen, to whose care and custody he was likewise committed, marching in his rear.

Being thus brought up within the face of the Court, the Serjeant at Arms, with his mace, receives and conducts him strait to the bar, having a crimson-velvet chair set before him. After a stern looking upon the Court, and the people in the galleries on each side of him, he places himself, not at all moving his hat, or otherwise shewing the least respect to the court; but presently rises up again, and turns about, looking downwards upon the guards placed on the left side, and on the multitude of spectators on the right side of the said great Hall. After silence made among the people, the Act of Parliament for the trying of Charles Stuart, king of England, was read over by the Clerk of the Court, who sat on one side of a table covered with a rich Turkey-carpet, and placed at the feet of the said Lord-President; upon which table was also laid the sword and mace.

After reading the said Act, the several names of the Commissioners were called over, every one who was present, being eighty, as aforesaid, rising up, and answering to his call.

Having again placed himself in his Chair, with his face towards the Court, silence being again ordered, the Lord President stood up, and said,

Lord President. Charles Stuart, king of England, the Commons of England assembled in parliament being deeply sensible of the calamities that have been brought upon this nation, which is fixed upon you as the principal author of it, have resolved to make inquisition for blood; and according to that debt and duty they owe to justice, to God, the kingdom, and themselves, and according to the fundamental power that rests in themselves, they have resolved to bring you to Trial and Judgment; and for that purpose have constituted this High Court of Justice, before which you are brought.

This said, Mr. Cook, Solicitor for the Commonwealth, standing within a bar on the right hand of the Prisoner, offered to speak: but the king having a staff in his hand, held it up, and laid it upon the said Mr Cook’s shoulder two or three times, bidding him hold. Nevertheless, the Lord President ordering him to go on, he said:

Mr Cook. My lord, I am commanded to charge Charles Stuart, King of England, in the name of the Commons of England, with Treason and High Misdemeanors; I desire the said Charge may be read.

The said Charge being delivered to the Clerk of the Court, the Lord President ordered it should be read; but the king bid him hold. Nevertheless, being commanded by the Lord President to rend it, the Clerk begun, and the Prisoner sat down again in his chair, looking sometimes on the High Court, sometimes up to the Galleries; and having risen again, and turned about to behold the guards and spectators, sat down, looking very sternly, and with a countenance not at all moved, till these words, viz. ‘Charles Stuart to be a Tyrant and Traitor, &c. were read; at which he laughed, as he sat, in the face of the Court.

The Charge being read, the Lord President replied:

Lord President. Sir, You have now heard your Charge, containing such matter as appears in it; you find, that in the close of it, it is prayed to the Court, in the behalf of the commons of England, that you answer to your Charge. The Court expects your Answer.

King. I would know by what power I am called hither; I was not long ago in the Isle of Wight; how I came there, is a longer story than I think it fit at this present time for me to speak of; but there I entered into a Treaty with both houses of parliament, with as much public faith as it is possible to be had of any people in the world. I treated there with a number of honourable lords and gentlemen, and treated honestly and uprightly; I cannot say but they did very nobly with me, we were upon the conclusion of the Treaty. Now I would know by what authority, I mean lawful; there are many unlawful authorities in the world, thieves and robbers by the highways; but I would know by what authority I was brought from thence, and carried from place to place, and I know not what: and when I know what lawful authority, I shall answer. Remember I am your king, your lawful king, and what sins you bring upon your heads, and the judgment of God upon this land; think well upon it, I say, think well upon it, before you go further from one sin to a greater: therefore let me know by what lawful authority I am seated here, and I shall not be unwilling to answer. In the mean time, I shall not betray my trust; I have a trust committed to me by God, by old and lawful descent; I will not betray it, to answer to a new unlawful authority: therefore resolve me that, and you shall hear more of me.

Lord President. If you had been pleased to have observed what was hinted to you by the Court, at your first coming hither, you would have known by what authority; which authority requires you, in the name of the people of England, of which you are elected king, to answer them.

King. No, Sir, I deny that.

Lord President. If you acknowledge not the authority of the Court, they must proceed.

King. I do tell them so; England was never an elective kingdom, but an hereditary kingdom for near these thousand years; therefore let me know by what authority I am called hither: I do stand more for the Liberty of my people, than any here that come to be my pretended Judges; and therefore let me know by what lawful authority I am seated here, and I will answer it; otherwise I will not answer it.

Ld. President. Sir, how really you have managed your trust, is known: your way of answer is to interrogate the Court, which beseems not you in this condition. You have been told of it twice or thrice.

King. Here is a gentleman, lieutenant colonel Cobbet; ask him, if he did not bring me from the Isle of Wight by force. I do not come here as submitting to the Court; I will stand as much for the privilege of the house of commons, rightly understood, as any man here whatsoever. I see no house of lords here that may constitute a parliament; and the king too should have been. Is this the bringing of the king to his parliament? Is this the bringing an end to the Treaty in the public faith of the world? Let me see a legal authority warranted by the Word of God, the Scriptures, or warranted by the Constitutions of the kingdom, and I will answer.

Ld. President. Sir; You have propounded a question, and have been answered. Seeing you will not answer, the Court will consider how to proceed; in the mean time, those that brought you hither, are to take charge of you back again. The Court desires to know, whether this be all the Answer you will give, or no.

King. Sir, I desire that you would give me, and all the world, satisfaction in this: let me tell you, it is not a slight thing you are about. I am sworn to keep the peace, by that duty I owe to God and my country, and I will do it to the last breath of my body; and therefore ye shall do well to satisfy first God, and then the country, by what authority you do it: if you do it by an usurped authority, you cannot answer. Thine is a God in Heaven, that will call you, and all that give you power, to account. Satisfy me in that, and I will answer; otherwise I betray my Trust, and the Liberties of the people; and therefore think of that, and then I shall be willing. For I do avow, that it is as great a sin to withstand lawful authority, as it is to submit to a tyrannical, or any other ways unlawful authority; and therefore satisfy me that, and you shall receive my answer.

Ld. President. The Court expects you should give them a final Answer; their purpose is to adjourn to Monday next; if you do not satisfy yourself, though we do tell you our authority, we are satisfied with our authority, and it is upon God’s authority, and the kingdom’s; and that peace you speak of will be kept in the doing of justice, and that is our present work.

King. For answer, let me tell you, you have shewn no lawful authority to satisfy any reasonable man.

Ld. President. That is, in your apprehension; we are satisfied that are your Judges.

King. It is not my apprehension, nor yours neither, that ought to decide it.

Ld. President. The Court hath heard you, and you are to be disposed of as they have commanded.

The Court adjourns to the Painted Chamber, on Monday at ten of the clock in the forenoon, and thence hither.

It is to be observed that as the Charge was reading against the king, the head of his Staff fell off, which he wondered at; and seeing none to take it up, he stoops for it himself.

As the King went away, facing the Court, he said, ‘I do not fear that’ (meaning the Sword). The People in the Hall, as he went down the stairs, cried out, some ‘God save the King,’ and most for ‘Justice.’

At the High Court of Justice sitting in Westminster Hall, Monday, Jan. 22, 1649.

O Yes! Made; Silence commanded; the Court called, and answered to their names. Silence commanded upon pain of imprisonment, and the Captain of the Guard to apprehend all such as make disturbance. Upon the king’s coming in, a shout was made. Command given by the Court to the Captain of the Guard, to fetch and take into his custody those who make any disturbance.

Mr Sollicitor. May it please your lordship, my Lord President; I did at the last court in the behalf of the Commons of England, exhibit and give in to this court a Charge of High Treason, and other High Crimes, against the prisoner at the bar; whereof I do accuse him in the name of the People of England; and the Charge was read unto him, and his Answer required. My lord, He was not then pleased to give an Answer, but instead of answering, did there dispute the Authority of this high Court. My humble motion to this high Court in behalf of the kingdom of England is, That the prisoner may be directed to make a positive Answer, either by way of confession, or negation; which if he shall refuse to do, that the matter of the Charge may be taken pro confesso, and the Court may proceed according to Justice.

Ld. President. Sir, You may remember at the last Court you were told the occasion of your being brought hither, and you heard a Charge read against you, containing a Charge of High-Treason and other high crimes against this realm of England; you heard likewise, that it was prayed in the behalf of the People, that you should give an Answer to that Charge, that thereupon such proceedings might be had, as should be agreeable to justice. You were then pleased to make some scruples concerning the authority of this Court, and knew not by what authority you were brought hither; you did divers times propound your questions, and were as often answered, That it was by authority of the Commons of England assembled in parliament, that did think fit to call you to account for those high and capital Misdemeanours wherewith you were then charged. Since that the Court hath taken into consideration what you then said; they are fully satisfied with their own authority, and they hold it fit you should stand satisfied with it too; and they do require it, that you do give a positive and particular Answer to this Charge that is exhibited against you; they do expect you should either confess or deny it; if you deny, it is offered in the behalf of the kingdom to be made good against you; their authority they do avow to the whole world, that the whole kingdom are to rest satisfied in, and you are to rest satisfied with it. And therefore you are to lose no more time, but to give a positive Answer thereunto.

King. When I was here last, it is very true, I made that question; truly if it were only my own particular Case, I would have satisfied myself with the protestation I made the last time I was here against the Legality of this Court, and that a king cannot be tried by any superior jurisdiction on earth; but it is not my case alone, it is the Freedom and the Liberty of the people of England; and do you pretend what you will, I stand more for their Liberties. For if power without law may make laws, may alter the fundamental laws of the kingdom, I do not know what subject he is in England, that can be sure of his life, or any thing that he calls his own; therefore when that I came here, I did expect particular reasons to know by what law, what authority you did proceed against me here. And therefore I am a little to seek what to say to you in this particular, because the affirmative is to be proved, the negative often is very hard to do; but since I cannot persuade you to do it, I shall tell you my reasons as short as I can.—My Reasons why in conscience and the duty I owe to God first, and my people next, for the preservation of their lives, liberties, and estates, I conceive I cannot answer this, till I be satisfied of the legality of it.—All proceedings against any man whatsoever—

Ld. President. Sir, I must interrupt you, which I would not do, but that what you do is not agreeable to the proceedings of any court of justice: You are about to enter into argument, and dispute concerning the Authority of this Court, before whom you appear as a Prisoner, and are charged as an high Delinquent; if you take upon you to dispute the Authority of the Court, we may not do it, nor will any court give way unto it; you are to submit unto it, you are to give a punctual and direct Answer, whether you will answer your Charge or no, and what your Answer is.

King. Sir, By your favour, I do not know the forms of law; I do know law and reason, though I am no lawyer professed; but I know as much law as any gentleman in England; and therefore (under favour), I do plead for the Liberties of the people of England more than you do; and therefore if I should impose a belief upon any man, without reasons given for it, it were unreasonable; but I must tell you, that that reason that I have, as thus informed, I cannot yield unto it.

Ld. President. Sir, I must interrupt you, you may not be permitted; you speak of law and reason; it is fit there should be law and reason, and there is both against you. Sir, the Vote of the Commons of England assembled in parliament, it is the reason of the kingdom, and they are these that have given to that law, according to which you should have ruled and reigned. Sir, you are not to dispute our Authority, you are told it again by the Court. Sir, it will be taken notice of, that you stand in contempt of the Court, and your contempt will he recorded accordingly.

King. I do not know how a king can be a Delinquent; but by any law that ever I heard of, all men (Delinquents, or what you will), let me tell you, they may put in Demurrers against any proceeding as legal; and I do demand that, and demand to he heard with my Reasons; if you deny that, you deny reason.

Ld. President. Sir, you have offered something to the Court; I shall speak something unto you, the Sense of the Court. Sir, neither you nor any man are permitted to dispute that point; you are concluded, you may not demur to the jurisdiction of the Court; if you do, I must let you know, that they over-rule your Demurrer; they sit here by the authority of the Commons of England, and all your predecessors and you are responsible to them.

King. I deny that; shew me one precedent.

Ld. President. Sir, you ought not to interrupt while the Court is speaking to you. This point is not to be debated by you, neither will the Court permit you to do it; if you offer it by way of Demurrer to the Jurisdiction of the Court, they have considered of their Jurisdiction, they do affirm their own Jurisdiction.

King. I say, Sir, by your favour, that the Commons of England was never a Court of Judicature; I would know how they came to be so.

Ld. President. Sir, you are not to be permitted to go on in that Speech and these discourses.

Then the clerk of the court read as followeth:

‘Charles Stuart, king of England, You have been accused on behalf of the People of England of High-Treasons, and other high Crimes; the Court have determined that you ought to answer the same.’

King. I will answer the same so soon as I know by what Authority you do this.

Ld. President. If this be all that you will say, then, Gentlemen, you that brought the Prisoner hither, take charge of him back again.

King. I do require that I may give in my Reasons why l do not answer, and give me time for that.

Ld. President. Sir, it is not for Prisoners to require.

King. Prisoners! Sir, I am not an ordinary prisoner.

Ld. President. The Court hath considered of their jurisdiction, and they have already affirmed their jurisdiction; if you will not answer, we shall give order to record your default.

King. You never heard my Reasons yet.

Ld. President. Sir, your Reasons are not to be heard against the highest jurisdiction.

King. Shew me that Jurisdiction where reason is not to be heard.

Ld. President. Sir, we shew it you here, The Commons of England; and the next time you are brought, you will know more of the pleasure of the Court; and, it may be, their final determination.

King. Shew me where ever the House of Commons was a Court of Judicature of that kind.

Ld. President. Serjeant, take away the Prisoner.

King. Well, Sir, remember that the king is not suffered to give in his Reasons for the Liberty and Freedom of all his Subjects.

Ld. President. Sir, you are not to have Liberty to use this language: How great a friend you have been to the Laws and Liberties of the people, let all England and the world judge.

King. Sir, under favour, it was the Liberty, Freedom, and Laws of the subject, that ever I took—defended myself with arms; I never took up arms against the people, but for the laws.

Ld. President. The command of the Court must be obeyed; no Answer will be given to the Charge.

King. Well, Sir!

And so he was guarded forth to sir Robert Cotton’s house.

Then the Court adjourned to the Painted chamber, on Tuesday at 12 o’clock, and from thence they intend to adjourn to Westminster hall; at which time all persons concerned are to give their attendance.

At the High Court of Justice sitting in Westminster-Hall, Tuesday Jan. 23, 1649.

O Yes made, Silence commanded, the Court called, 73 persons present.—The King comes in with his guard, looks with an austere countenance upon the Court, and sits down.—The second O Yes made, and Silence commanded.

Fictitious portrait of John Cooke, Solicitor-General

Fictitious portrait of John Cooke,
Solicitor-General

Mr. Cook, Solicitor-General. May it please your lordship, my lord President; this is now the third time, that by the great grace and favour of this High Court, the Prisoner hath been brought to the bar before any issue joined in the cause. My lord, I did at the first court exhibit a Charge against him, containing the highest Treasons that ever was wrought upon the theatre of England; That a king of England, trusted to keep the law, that had taken an oath so to do, that had tribute paid him for that end, should be guilty of a wicked Design to subvert and destroy our Laws, and introduce an Arbitrary and Tyrannical Government, in defiance of the Parliament and their Authority, set up his standard for War against his Parliament and People: And I did humbly pray, in the behalf of the people of England, that he might speedily be required to make an Answer to the Charge.—But, my lord, instead of making any Answer, he did then dispute the Authority of this High Court. Your lordship was pleased to give him a further day to consider, and to put in his Answer; which day being Yesterday, I did humbly move, that he might be required to give a direct and positive Answer, either by denying or confession of it; But, my lord, he was then pleased for to demur to the Jurisdiction of the Court; which the court did then over-rule, and commanded him to give a direct and positive Answer. My lord, besides this great delay of justice, I shall now humbly move your lordship for speedy Judgment against him. My lord, I might press your lordship upon the whole, that according to the known rules of the law of the land, That if a Prisoner shall stand as contumacious in contempt, and shall not put in an issuable plea, Guilty or not Guilty of the Charge given against him, whereby be may come to a fair trial; that, as by an implicit confession, it may be taken pro confesso, as it hath been done to those who have deserved more favour than the Prisoner at the bar has done. But besides, my lord, I shall humbly press your lordship upon the whole fact. The house of commons, the supreme Authority and Jurisdiction of the kingdom, they have declared, That it is notorious, that the matter of the Charge is true, as it is in truth, my lord, as clear as crystal, and as the sun that shines at noon day; which if your lordship and the Court be not satisfied in, I have notwithstanding, on the people of England’s behalf, several Witnesses to produce. And therefore I do humbly pray, and yet must confess it is not so much I, as the innocent blood that hath been shed, the cry whereof is very great for justice and judgment; and therefore I do humbly pray, that speedy Judgment be pronounced against the Prisoner at the bar.

Lord President. Sir, you have heard what is moved by the Counsel on the behalf of the kingdom against you. Sir, you may well remember, and if you do not, the Court cannot forget, what dilatory dealings the Court hath found at your hands. You were pleased to propound some Questions, you have had our Resolutions upon them. You were told, over and over again, That the Court did affirm their own jurisdiction; that it was not for you, nor any other man, to dispute the jurisdiction of the supreme and highest Authority of England, from which there is no appeal, and touching which there must be no dispute; yet you did persist in such carriage, as you gave no manner of obedience, nor did you acknowledge any authority in them, nor the High Court that constituted this Court of Justice.—Sir, I must let you know from the Court, that they are very sensible of these delays of your’s, and that they ought not, being thus authorized by the supreme Court of England, to be thus trifled withal; and that they might in justice, if they pleased, and according to the rules of justice, take advantage of these delays, and proceed to pronounce judgment against you; yet nevertheless they are pleased to give direction, and on their behalfs I do require you, that you make a positive Answer unto this Charge that is against you, Sir, in plain terms, for Justice knows no respect of persons; you are to give your positive and final Answer in plain English, whether you be Guilty or Not Guilty of these Treasons laid to your charge.

The King, after a little pause, said,

King. When I was here yesterday, I did desire to speak for the Liberties of the people of England; I was interrupted; I desire to know yet whether I may speak freely or not.

Lord President. Sir, you have had the Resolution of the Court upon the like question the last day, and you were told, that having such a Charge of so high a nature against you, and your work was, that you ought to acknowledge the jurisdiction of the Court, and to answer to your Charge. Sir, if you answer to your Charge, which the Court gives you leave now to do, though they might have taken the advantage of your contempt; yet if you be able to answer to your Charge, when you have once answered, you shall be heard at large, make the best defence you can. But, Sir, I must let you know from the Court, as their commands, that you are not to be permitted to issue out into any other discourses, till such time as you have given a positive Answer concerning the matter that is charged upon you.

King. For the Charge, I value it not a rush; it is the Liberty of the People of England that I stand for. For me to acknowledge a new Court that I never heard of before, I that am your King, that should be an example to all the people of England, for to uphold justice, to maintain the old laws; indeed I do not know how to do it. You spoke very well the first day that I came here (on Saturday) of the obligations that I had laid upon me by God, to the maintenance of the Liberties of my people; the same obligation you spake of, I do acknowledge to God that I owe to him, and to my people, to defend as much as in me lies the antient laws of the kingdom; therefore, until that I may know that this is not against the fundamental Laws of the kingdom, by your favour I can put in no particular Charge. (*) If you will give me time, I will shew you my Reasons why I cannot do it, and this—

Here, being interrupted, he said,

By your favour, you ought not to interrupt me: How I came here, I know not; there’s no law for it to make your king your prisoner. I was in a Treaty upon the public faith of the kingdom, that was the known—() two Houses of Parliament that was the representative of the kingdom; and when that I had almost made an end of the Treaty, then I was hurried away, and brought hither; and therefore—

Here the Lord President said, Sir, you must know the pleasure of the Court.

King. By your favour, sir.

Lord President. Nay, sir, by your favour, you may not be permitted to fall into those discourses; you appear as a Delinquent, you have not acknowledged the authority of the Court, the Court craves it not of you; but once more they command you to give your positive Answer—Clerk, do your duty.

King. Duty, sir!

The Clerk reads.

“Charles Stuart, king of England, you are accused in behalf of the commons of England of divers Crimes and Treasons, which Charge hath been read unto you; the Court now requires you to give your positive and final Answer, by way of confession or denial of the Charge.”

King. Sir, I say again to you, so that I might give satisfaction to the people of England of the clearness of my proceeding, not by way of Answer, not in this way, but to satisfy them that I have done nothing against that trust that has been committed to me, I would do it; but to acknowledge a new Court, against their Privileges, to alter the fundamental laws of the kingdom—sir, you must excuse me.

Lord President. Sir, this is the third time that you have publicly disowned this Court, and put an affront upon it. How far you have preserved the privileges of the People, your actions have spoke it; but truly, Sir, men’s intentions ought to be known by their actions; you have written your meaning in bloody characters throughout the whole kingdom. But, Sir, you understand the pleasure of the Court.—Clerk, Record the Default.—And, Gentlemen, you that took charge of the Prisoner, take him hack again.

King. I will only say this one word more to you: If it were only my own particular, I would not say any more, nor interrupt you.

Lord President. Sir, you have heard the pleasure of the Court, and you are (notwithstanding you will not understand it) to find that you are before a court of justice.

Then the King went forth with his guard, and proclamation was made, That all persons which had then appeared, and had further to do at the Court, might depart into the Painted Chamber; to which place the Court did forthwith adjourn, and intended to meet in Westminster Hall by ten of the clock next morning.

Cryer. God bless the kingdom of England!

The Proceeding of the High Court of Justice sitting in Westminster-Hall, on Saturday the 27th of January 1649.

O Yes made; Silence commanded; the court called; Serjeant Bradshaw Lord President (in a scarlet robe), with sixty-eight other members of the court.

As the King comes in, a Cry made in the Hall for Execution! Justice! Execution!

King. I shall desire a word to be heard a little, and I hope I shall give no occasion of interruption.

Ld. President. You may answer in your time, hear the Court first.

King. If it please you, Sir, I desire to be heard, and I shall not give any occasion of interruption, and it is only in a word; a sudden Judgment.

Ld. President. Sir, you shall he heard in due time, but you are to hear the Court first.

King. Sir, I desire—it will be in order to what I believe the Court will say; and therefore, Sir an hasty Judgment is not so loon recalled.

Ld. President. Sir, you shall be heard before the Judgment be given, and in the mean time you may forbear.

King. Well, Sir, shall I be heard before Judgment be given?

Ld. President. Gentlemen, it is well known to all, or most of you here present, that the Prisoner at the Bar hath been several times convened and brought before the Court to make answer to a Charge of Treason, and other high Crimes exhibited against him in the name of the people of England; [Here a malignant lady (Lady Fairfax) interrupted the Court, saying, ‘Not half the People;’ but she was soon silenced. See the Trial of Daniel Axtell, Oct. 15, 1660.] to which Charge being required to answer he hath been so far from obeying the commands of the Court by submitting to their justice, as he began to take upon him to offer reasoning and debate unto the Authority of the Court, and of the highest court that Constituted them to try and judge him; but being over-ruled in that, and required to make his Answer, he was still pleased to continue contumacious, and to refuse to submit or answer. Hereupon the Court, that they may not be wanting to themselves, to the trust reposed in them, nor that any man’s wilfulness prevent justice, they have thought fit to take the matter into their consideration; they have considered of the Charge, they have considered of the Contumacy, and of that Confession, which in law doth arise upon that contumacy; they have likewise considered of the notoriety of the fact charged upon this Prisoner, and upon the whole matter they are resolved, and have agreed upon a Sentence to be now pronounced against this Prisoner: but in respect he doth desire to be heard, before the Sentence be read and pronounced, the Court hath resolved that they will hear him. Yet, Sir, thus much I must tell you beforehand, which you have been minded of at other courts, that if that you have to say be to offer any debate concerning jurisdiction, you are not to be heard in it; you have offered it formerly, and you have indeed struck at the root, that is, the power and supreme authority of the Commons of England, which this Court will not admit a debate of; and which indeed is an irrational thing in them to do, being a court that acts upon authority derived from them, that they should presume to judge upon their superior, from whom there is no appeal. But, Sir, if you have any thing to say in defence of yourself concerning the matter charged, the Court hath given me in command to let you know they will hear you.

Portrait of King Charles I at his Trial by Edward Bower

Portrait of King Charles I at his Trial
by Edward Bower

King. Since that I see that you will not hear any thing of debate concerning that which I confess I thought most material for the Peace of the Kingdom, and for the Liberty of the Subject, I shall wave it; I shall speak nothing to it, but only I must tell you, that this many a-day all things have been taken away from me, but that, that I call more dear to me than my life, which is my conscience and my honour; and if I had respect to my life more than the Peace of the Kingdom, the Liberty of the Subject, certainly I should have made a particular Defence for myself; for by that at leastwise I might have delayed an ugly Sentence, which I believe will pass upon me. Therefore certainly, Sir, as a man that hath some understanding, some knowledge of the world, if that my true zeal to my country had not over-born the care that I have of my own preservation, I should have gone another way to work than that I have done. Now, Sir, I conceive, that an hasty Sentence once passed, may sooner be repented than recalled; and truly, the self-same desire that I have for the Peace of the Kingdom, and the Liberty of the subject, more than my own particular, does make me now at last desire, that having something for to say that concerns both, I desire before Sentence be given, that I may be heard in the Painted-Chamber before the Lords and Commons. This delay cannot be prejudicial to you, whatsoever I say; if that I say no reason, those that hear me must be judges: I cannot be judge of that, which I have; if it be reason, and really for the welfare of the kingdom, and the liberty of the subject, I am sure on’t, very well it is worth the hearing; therefore I do conjure you, as you love that which you pretend, I hope it is real, the Liberty of the Subject, the Peace of the Kingdom, that you will grant me the hearing, before any Sentence be past. I only desire this, that you will take this into your consideration, it may be you have not heard of it before-hand; if you will, I’ll retire, and you may think of it; but if I cannot get this liberty, I do here protest, that so fair shews of Liberty and Peace are pure shews, and not otherwise, since you will not hear your king.

Ld. President. Sir, you have now spoken.

King. Yes, Sir.

Ld. President. And this that you have said is a further declining of the Jurisdiction of this Court, which was the thing wherein you were limited before.

King. Pray excuse me, Sir, for my interruption, because you mistake me; it is not a declining of it, you do judge me before you hear me speak: I say it will not, I do not decline it, though I cannot acknowledge the Jurisdiction of the Court; yet, Sir, in this give me leave to say, I would do it, though I do not by this acknowledge it, I do protest it is not the declining of it, since I say, if that I do say any thing, but that which is for the Peace of the Kingdom, and the Liberty of the Subject, then the shame is mine. Now I desire that you will take this into your consideration; if you will, I’ll withdraw.

Ld President. Sir, this is not altogether new that you have moved unto us, not altogether new to us, though it is the first time in person you have offered it to the Court. Sir, you say you do not decline the Jurisdiction of the Court.

King. Not in this that I have said.

Ld. President. I understand you well, Sir; but nevertheless, that which you have offered seems to be contrary to that saying of yours; for the Court are ready to give a Sentence: It is not as you say, That they will not hear your king; for they have been ready to hear you, they have patiently waited your pleasure for three Courts together, to hear what you would say to the People’s Charge against you, to which you have not vouchsafed to give any Answer at all. Sir, this tends to a further delay; truly, Sir, such delays as these, neither may the kingdom nor justice well bear; you have had three several days to have offered in this kind what you would have pleased. This Court is founded upon that Authority of the Commons of England, in whom rests the supreme jurisdiction; that which you now tender, is to have another jurisdiction, and a co-ordinate jurisdiction. I know very well you express yourself, Sir, that notwithstanding that you would offer to the Lords and Commons in the Painted Chamber, yet nevertheless you would proceed on here, I did hear you say so. But, Sir, that you would offer there, whatever it is, it must needs be in delay of the Justice here; so as if this Court be resolved, and prepared for the Sentence, this that you offer they are not bound injustice to grant: But, Sir, according to what you seem to desire, and because you shall know the further pleasure of the Court upon that which you have moved, the Court will withdraw for a time.

King. Shall I withdraw?

Ld. President. Sir, you shall know the pleasure of the Court presently.

The Court withdraws for half an hour into the Court of Wards.

Serjeant at Arms. The Court gives command, that the Prisoner be withdrawn; and they give order for his return again.

The Court withdraws for half an hour, and returns.

Ld. President. Serjeant at Arms, send for your Prisoner.

Sir, you were pleased to make a motion here to the Court to offer a desire of yours, touching the propounding of somewhat to the Lords in the Painted Chamber, for the peace of the kingdom: Sir, you did, in effect receive an Answer before the Court adjourned; truly, Sir, their withdrawing and adjournment was pro formá tantùm; for it did not seem to them that there was any difficulty in the thing; they have considered of what you have moved, and have considered of their own Authority, which is founded, as hath been often said, upon the supreme Authority of the Commons of England assembled in parliament: the Court acts according to their Commission. Sir, the return I have to you from the Court, is this: That they have been too much delayed by you already, and this that you now offer hath occasioned some little further delay; and they are Judges appointed by the highest Judges; and Judges are no more to delay, than they are to deny Justice; they are good words in the great old Charter of England; Nulli negabimus, nulli vendemus, nulli differemus Justitiam. There must be no delay; but the truth is, Sir, and so every man here observes it, that you have much delayed them in your Contempt and Default, for which they might long since have proceeded to Judgment against you; and notwithstanding what you have offered, they are resolved to proceed to Punishment, and to Judgment, and that is their unanimous Resolution.

King. Sir, I know it is in vain for me to dispute, I am no sceptic for to deny the Power that you have; I know that you have Power enough: Sir, I confess, I think it would have been for the kingdom’s peace, if you would have taken the pains for to have shewn the lawfulness of your Power; for this Delay that I have desired, I confess it is a delay, but it is a delay very important for the Peace of the Kingdom; for it is not my person that I look on alone, it is the kingdom’s welfare, and the kingdom’s peace; it is an old Sentence, That we should think long, before we resolve of great matters. Therefore, Sir, I do say again, that I do put at your doors all the inconveniency of an hasty Sentence. I confess I have been here now, I think, this week; this day eight days was the day I came here first, but a little Delay of a day or two further may give Peace; whereas an hasty Judgment may bring on that trouble and perpetual inconveniency to the kingdom, that the child that is unborn may repent it; and therefore again, out of the duty I owe to God, and to my country, I do desire that I may be heard by the Lords and Commons in the Painted-Chamber, or any other chamber that you will appoint me.

Ld. President. Sir, you have been already answered to what you even now moved, being the same you moved before, since the Resolution and the Judgment of the Court in it; and the Court now requires to know whether you have any more to say for yourself than you have said, before they proceed to Sentence?

King. I say this, Sir, That if you will hear me, if you will give but this Delay, I doubt not but I shall give some satisfaction to you all here, and to my People after that; and therefore I do require you, as you will answer it at the dreadful Day of Judgment, that you will consider it once again.

Ld. President. Sir, I have received direction from the Court.

King. Well, Sir.

Ld. President. If this must be re-enforced, or any thing of this nature, your Answer must be the same; and they will proceed to Sentence, if you have nothing more to say.

King. Sir, I have nothing more to say, but I shall desire, that this may be entered what I have said.

Ld. President. The Court then, Sir, hath something else to say to you; which, although I know it will be very unacceptable, yet notwithstanding they are willing, and are resolved to discharge their duty.—Sir, You speak very well of a precious thing, which you call Peace; and it had been much to be wished that God had put it into your heart, that you had as effectually and really endeavoured and studied the Peace of the kingdom, as now in words you seem to pretend; but, as you were told the other day, actions must expound intentions; yet actions have been clean contrary. And truly, Sir, it doth appear plainly enough to them, that you have gone upon very erroneous principles: The kingdom hath felt it to their smart; and it will be no ease to you to think of it; for, Sir, you have held yourself, and let fall such language, as if you had been no way subject to the Law, or that the law had not been your superior. Sir, the Court is very sensible of it, and I hope so are all the understanding people of England, that the law is your superior; that you ought to have ruled according to the law; you ought to have done so. Sir, I know very well your pretence hath been that you have done so; but, Sir, the difference hath been who shall be the expositors of this law: Sir, whether you and your party, out of courts of justice, shall take upon them to expound law, or the courts of justice, who are the expounders? Nay, the Sovereign and the High Court of Justice, the Parliament of England, that are not only the highest expounders, but the sole makers of the law? Sir, for you to set yourself with your single judgment, and those that adhere unto you, to set yourself against the highest Court of Justice, that is not Law. Sir, as the Law is your Superior, so truly, Sir, there is something that is superior to the Law, and that is indeed the Parent or Author of the Law, and that is the people of England: for, Sir, as they are those that at the first (as other countries have done) did chuse to themselves this form of government even for Justice sake, that justice might be administered, that peace might be preserved; so, Sir, they gave laws to their governors, according to which they should govern; and if those laws should have proved inconvenient or prejudicial to the public, they had a power in them, and reserved to themselves, to alter as they shall see cause. Sir, it is very true what some of your side have said, ‘Rex non habet parem in regno,’ say they: This Court will say the same, while King, that you have not your peer in some sense, for you are major singulis; but they will aver again that you are minor universis. And the same Author tells you, that ‘non debet esse major eo in regno suo in exhibitione juris, minimus auten esse debet in judicio suscipiendo.’ [Bract. de leg. lib. 1. c. 8.]

Portrait of John Bradshawe, Lord President of the High Court of Justice

Portrait of John Bradshawe,
Lord President of the High Court of Justice
artist unknown

This we know to be law, Rex habet superiorem, Deum et legem, etiam et curiam; so says the same author. And truly, Sir, he makes bold to go a little further, Debent ei ponere franum: they ought to bridle him. And, Sir, we know very well the stories of old; those wars that were called the Barons’ War, when the nobility of the land did stand out for the Liberty and Property of the Subject, and would not suffer the kings, that did invade, to play the tyrants freer, but called them to account for it; we know that truth, that they did frænum ponere. But, Sir, if they do forbear to do their duty now, and are not so mindful of their own honour and the kingdom’s good as the Barons of England of old were, certainly the Commons of England will not be unmindful of what is for their preservation, and for their safety; Justitiæ fruendi causa reges constiluti sunt. This we learn: The end of having kings, or any other governors, it is for the enjoying of justice; that is the end. Now, Sir, if so be the king will go contrary to that end, or any other governor will go contrary to the end of his government; Sir, he must understand that he is but an officer in trust, and he ought to discharge that trust; and they are to take order for the animadversion and punishment of such an offending governor.

This is not law of yesterday, Sir, (since the time of the division betwixt you and your people) but it is law of old. And we know very well the Authors and the Authorities that do tell us what the law was in that point upon the Election of Kings, upon the Oath that they took unto their people: And if they did not observe it, there were those things called Parliaments; the Parliaments were they that were to adjudge (the very Words of the Author) the plaints and wrongs done of the king and the queen, or their children; such wrongs especially, when the people could have no where else any Remedy. Sir, that hath been the people of England’s case: they could not have their Remedy elsewhere but in parliament.

Sir, Parliaments were ordained for that purpose, to redress the Grievances of the people; that was their main end. And truly, Sir, if so be that the kings of England had been rightly mindful of themselves, they were never more in majesty and state than in the Parliament: But how forgetful some have been, Stories have told us: we have a miserable, a lamentable, a sad experience of it. Sir, by the old laws of England, I speak these things the rather to you, because you were pleased to let fall the other day, You thought you had as much knowledge in the Law as most gentleman in England: it is very well, Sir. And truly, Sir, it is very fit for the gentlemen of England to understand that Law under which they must live, and by which they must be governed. And then, Sir, the Scripture says, “They that know their master’s will and do it not:” what follows? The Law is your master, the acts of parliament.

The Parliaments were to be kept antiently, we find in our old Author, twice in the year, that the Subject upon any occasion might have a ready Remedy and Redress for his Grievance. Afterwards, by several acts of parliament in the days of your predecessor Edward the third, they should have been once a year. Sir, what the Intermission of parliaments hath been in your time, it is very well known, and the sad consequences of it; and what in the interim instead of these Parliaments hath been by you by an high and arbitrary hand introduced upon the People, that likewise hath been too well known and felt.  But when God by his Providence had so far brought it about, that you could no longer decline the calling of a Parliament, Sir, yet it will appear what your ends were against the antient and your native kingdom of Scotland: the Parliament of England not serving your ends against them, you were pleased to dissolve it. Another great necessity occasioned the calling of this parliament; and what your Designs, and Plots, and Endeavours all along have been, for the crushing and confounding of this Parliament, hath been very notorious to the whole kingdom. And truly, Sir, in that you did strike at all; that had been a sure way to have brought about That that this Charge lays upon you, your intention to subvert the Fundamental Laws of the Land: for the great bulwark of the Liberties of the People is the Parliament of England; and to subvert and root up that, which your aim hath been to do, certainly at one blow you had confounded the Liberties and the Property of England.

Truly, Sir, it makes me to call to mind; I cannot forbear to express it; for, Sir, we must deal plainly with you, according to the merits of your cause; so is our Commission: it makes me call to mind (these proceedings of yours) That that we read of a great Roman Emperor, by the way let us call him a great Roman tyrant, Caligula, that wished that the people of Rome had had but one neck, that at one blow he might cut it off. And your proceedings have been somewhat like to this: for the body of the people of England hath been (and where else) represented but in the Parliament; and could you but have confounded that, you had at one blow cut off the neck of England. But God hath reserved better things for us, and hath pleased for to confound your designs, and to break your forces, and to bring your person into custody, that you might be responsible to justice.

Sir, we know very well that it is a question much on your side press’d, By what Precedent we shall proceed? Truly, Sir, for Precedents, I shall not upon these occasions institute any long discourse; but it is no new thing to cite precedents almost of all nations, where the people (when power hath been in their hands) have made bold to call their Kings to account; and where the change of government hath been upon occasion of the Tyranny and Misgovernment of those that have been placed over them, I will not spend time to mention either France, or Spain, or the Empire, or other countries; volumes may be written of it. But truly, Sir, that of the kingdom of Arragon, I shall think some of us have thought upon it, where they have the justice of Arragon, that is, a man, tanquam in medio positus, betwixt the king of Spain and the people of the country; that if wrong be done by the king, he that is king of Arragon, the justice, hath power to reform the wrong; and he is acknowledged to be the king’s superior, and is the grand preserver of their privileges, and hath prosecuted kings upon their miscarriages.

Sir, what the Tribunes of Rome were heretofore, and what the Ephori were to the Lacedemonian State, we know that is the Parliament of England to the English state: and though Rome seemed to lose its liberty when once the Emperors were; yet you shall find some famous acts of justice even done by the Senate of Rome; that great Tyrant of his time, Nero, condemned and judged by the Senate. But truly, Sir, to you I should not need to mention these foreign examples and stories: If you look but over Tweed, we find enough in your native kingdom of Scotland: If we look to your first King Fergus, that your Stories make mention of, he was an elective king; he died, and left two sons, both in their minority; the kingdom made choice of their uncle, his brother, to govern in the minority. Afterwards the elder brother, giving small hopes to the people that he would rule or govern well, seeking to supplant that good uncle of his that governed them justly, they set the elder aside, and took to the younger. Sir, if I should come to what your Stories make mention of, you know very well you are the hundred and ninth king of Scotland; for not to mention so many kings as that kingdom, according to their power and privilege, have made bold to deal withal, some to banish, and some to imprison, and some to put to death, it would be too long; and as one of your own authors says, it would be too long to recite the manifold examples that your own Stories make mention of. Reges, &c. (say they) we do create; we created kings at first: Leges, &c. we imposed laws upon them. And as they are chosen by the suffrages of the People at the first, so upon just occasion, by the same suffrages they may be taken down again. And we will be bold to say, that no kingdom hath yielded more plentiful experience than that your native kingdom of Scotland hath done concerning the Deposition and the Punishment of their offending and transgressing kings, &c.

It is not far to go for an example: near you Your grandmother set aside, and your father, an infant, crowned. And the State did it here in England: here hath not been a want of some examples. They have made bold (the Parliament and the People of England) to call their Kings to account: there are frequent examples of it in the Saxons’ time, the time before the Conquest. Since the Conquest there want not some Precedents neither; King Edward the Second, King Richard the Second, were dealt with so by the Parliament, as they were deposed and deprived. And truly, Sir, whoever shall look into their Stories, they shall not find the Articles that are charged upon them to come near to that height and capitalness of Crimes that are laid to your Charge; nothing near.

Sir, you were pleased to say, the other day, wherein they dissent; and I did not contradict it. But take all together, Sir: If you were as the Charge speaks, and no otherwise, admitted king of England; but for that you were pleased then to alledge, how that for almost a thousand years these things have been, Stories will tell you, if you go no higher than the time of the Conquest; if you do come down since the Conquest, you are the twenty-fourth king from William called the Conqueror, you shall find one half of them to come merely from the state, and not merely upon the point of descent. It were easy to be instanced to you; but time must not be lost that way. And truly, Sir, what a grave and learned Judge said in his time, and well known to you, and is since printed for posterity, That although there was such a thing as a descent many times, yet the kings of England ever held the greatest assurance of their Titles, when it was declared by Parliament. And, Sir, your Oath, the manner of your Coronation, doth shew plainly, that the kings of England, although it is true, by the law the next person in blood is designed; yet if there were just cause to refuse him, the People of England might do it. For there is a Contract and a Bargain made between the King and his People, and your Oath is taken: and certainly, Sir, the bond is reciprocal; for as you are the Liege Lord, so they Liege Subjects. And we know very well, that hath been so much spoken of, Ligeantia est duplex. This we know now, the one tie, the one bond, is the Bond of Protection that is due from the sovereign; the other is the Bond of Subjection that is due from the subject. Sir, if this bond be once broken, farewell sovereignty! Subjectio trahit, &c.

These things may not be denied, Sir: I speak it rather, and I pray God it may work upon your heart, that you may be sensible of your Miscarriages. For whether you have been, as by your office you ought to be, a Protector of England, or the Destroyer of England, let all England judge, or all the world, that hath look’d upon it. Sir, though you have it by inheritance in the way that is spoken of, yet it must not be denied that your office was an office of trust, and indeed an office of the highest trust lodged in any single person; For as you were the Grand Administrator of Justice, and others were, as your delegates, to see it done throughout your realms; if your greatest office were to do Justice, and preserve your People from wrong, and instead of doing that, you will be the great Wrong-doer yourself; if instead of being a Conservator of the Peace, you will be the grand Disturber of the Peace; surely this is contrary to your office, contrary to your trust. Now, Sir, if it be an office of inheritance, as you speak of, your Title by Descent, let all men know that great offices are seizable and forfeitable, as if you had it but for a year, and for your life. Therefore, Sir, it will concern you to take into your serious consideration your great Miscarriages in this kind. Truly, Sir, I shall not particularize the many Miscarriages of your reign whatsoever, they are famously known: It had been happy for the kingdom, and happy for you too, if it had not been so much known, and so much felt, as the Story of your Miscarriages must needs be, and hath been already.

Sir, That which we are now upon, by the command of the highest Court, hath been and is to try and judge you for these great offences of your’s. Sir, the Charge hath called you Tyrant, Traitor, a Murderer, and a Public Enemy to the Commonwealth of England. Sir, it had been well if that any of all these terms might rightly and justly have been spared, if any one of them at all.

King. Ha!

Ld. President. Truly, Sir, We have been told, “Rex est dum bene regit, Tyrannos qui populum opprimit:” And if so be that be the definition of a Tyrant, then see how you come short of it in your actions, whether the highest Tyrant, by that way of arbitrary government, and that you have sought for to introduce, and that you have sought to put, you were putting upon the people? Whether that was not as high an Act of Tyranny as any of your predecessors were guilty of, nay, many degrees beyond it?

Sir, the term Traitor cannot be spared. We shall easily agree it must denote and suppose a Breach of Trust; and it must suppose it to be done to a superior. And therefore, Sir, as the people of England might have incurred that respecting you, if they had been truly guilty of it, as to the definition of law; so on the other side, when you did break your trust to the kingdom, you did break your trust to your superior: For the kingdom is that for which you were trusted.—And therefore, sir, for this breach of Trust when you are called to account, you are called to account by your superiors. “Minimus ad majorem in judicium vocat.” And, Sir, the People of England cannot be so far wanting to themselves, God having dealt so miraculously and gloriously for them; but that having power in their hands, and their great enemy, they must proceed to do justice to themselves and to you: For, Sir, the Court could heartily desire, that you would lay your hand upon your heart, and consider what you have done amiss, that you would endeavour to make your peace with God. Truly, Sir, these are your High-Crimes, Tyranny and Treason.

There is a third thing too, if those had not been, and that is Murder, which is laid to your charge. All the bloody Murders, which have been committed since this time that the division was betwixt you and your people, must be laid to your charge, which have been acted or committed in these late wars. Sir, it is an heinous and crying sin: And truly, Sir, if any man will ask us what Punishment is due to a Murderer, let God’s Law, let man’s law speak. Sir, I will presume that you are so well rend in Scripture, as to know what God himself hath said concerning the shedding of man’s blood: Gen. ix Numb. xxxv. will tell you what the punishment is: And which this Court, in behalf of the whole kingdom, are sensible of, of that innocent blood that has been shed, whereby indeed the land stands still defiles with that blood; and, as the text hath it, it can no way be cleansed but with the shedding of the Blood of him that shed this blood. Sir, we know no dispensation from this blood in that Commandment, ‘Thou shalt do no Murder:’ We do not know but that it extends to kings as well as to the meanest peasants, the meanest of the people; the command is universal. Sir, God’s law forbids it; Man’s law forbids it: Nor do we know that there is any manner of exception, not even in man’s laws, for the punishment of murder in you. It is true, that in the case of kings every private hand was not to put forth itself to this work, for their reformation and punishment: But, Sir, the people represented having power in their hands, had there been but one wilful act of murder by you committed, had power to have convened you, and to have punished you for it.

But then, Sir, the weight that lies upon you in all those respects that have been spoken, by reason of your Tyranny, Treason, Breach of Trust, and the Murders that have been committed; surely, Sir, it must drive you into a sad consideration concerning your eternal condition. As I said at first, I know it cannot be pleasing to you to hear any such things as these are mentioned unto you from this Court, for so we do call ourselves, and justify ourselves to be a Court, and a high Court of Justice, authorized by the highest and solemnest court of the kingdom, as we have often said; And although you do yet endeavour what you may to discourt us, yet we do take knowledge of ourselves to be such a Court as can administer Justice to you; and we are bound, Sir, in duty to do it. Sir, all I shall say before the reading of your Sentence, it is but this: The Court does heartily desire that you will seriously think of those evils that you stand guilty of. Sir, you said well to us the other day, you wished us to have God before our eyes. Truly, Sir, I hope all of us have so: That God, who we know is a King of Kings, and Lord of Lords; that God with whom there is no respect of Persons; that God, who is the Avenger of innocent Blood; We have that God before us; that God, who does bestow a curse upon them that with-hold their hands from shedding of blood, which is in the case of guilty malefactors, and that do deserve death: That God we have before our eyes. And were it not that the conscience of our duty hath called us unto this place, and this imployment, Sir, you should have had no appearance of a Court here. Bur, Sir, we must prefer the discharge of our duty unto God, and unto the kingdom, before any other respect whatsoever. And although at this time many of us, if not all of us, are severely threatened by some of your party, what they intend to do, Sir, we do here declare, That we shall not decline or forbear the doing of our duty in the administration of Justice, even to you, according to the merit of your Offence, although God should permit those men to effect all that bloody design in hand against us. Sir, we will say, and we will declare it, as those Children in the fiery Furnace, that would not worship the golden Image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up, ‘That their God was able to deliver them from that danger that they were near unto:’ But yet if he would not do it, yet notwithstanding that they would not fall down and worship the Image. We shall thus apply it; That though we should not be delivered from those bloody hands and hearts that conspire the overthrow of the kingdom in general, of us in particular, for acting in this great Work of Justice, though we should perish in the Work, yet by God’s grace, and by God’s strength, we will go on with it. And this is all our resolutions. Sir, I say for yourself, we do heartily wish and desire that God would be pleased to give you a sense of your sins, that you would see wherein you have done amiss, that you may cry unto him, that God would deliver you from Blood-guiltiness. A good king was once guilty of that particular thing, and was clear otherwise, saving in the matter of Uriah. Truly, Sir, the Story tells us that he was a repentant king; and it signifies enough, that he had died for it, but that God was pleased to accept of him, and to give him his pardon, “Thou shalt not die, but the child shall die: Thou hast given cause to the enemies of God to blaspheme.”

King. I would desire only one word before you give Sentence; and that is, that you would hear me concerning those great Imputation that you have laid to my charge.

Ld. President. Sir, You must give me now leave to go on; for I am not far from your Sentence, and your time is now past.

King. But I shall desire you will hear me a few words to you: For truly, whatever Sentence you will put upon me in respect of those heavy imputations, that I see by your Speech you have put upon me; Sir, It is very true, that——

Ld. President. Sir, I must put you in mind: Truly, Sir, I would not willingly, at this time especially, interrupt you in any thing you have to say, that is proper for us to admit of; but, Sir, you have not owned us as a Court, and you look upon us as a sort of people met together; and we know what language we receive from your party.

King. I know nothing of that.

Ld. President. You disavow us as a Court; and therefore for you to address yourself to us, not acknowledging us as a Court to judge of what you say, it is not to be permitted. And the truth is, all along, from the first time you were pleased to disavow and disown us, the Court needed not to have heard you one word: For unless they be acknowledged a Court, and engaged, it is not proper for you to speak. Sir, we have given you too much liberty already, and admitted of too much delay, and we may not admit of any farther. Were it proper for us to do it, we should hear you freely; and we should not have declined to hear you at large, what you could have said or proved on your behalf, whether for totally excusing, or for in part excusing those great and heinous Charges, that in whole or in part are laid upon you. But, Sir, I shall trouble you no longer; your sins are of so large a dimension, that if you do but seriously think of them, they will drive you to a sad consideration of it, and they may improve in you a sad and serious repentance: And that the Court doth heartily wish that you may be so penitent for what you have done amiss, that God may have mercy, at leastwise, upon your better part: Truly, Sir, for the other, it is our parts and duties to do that, which the law prescribes. We are not here jus dare but jus dicere. We cannot be unmindful of what the Scripture tells us; “For to acquit the Guilty is of equal Abomination, as to condemn the Innocent:” We may not acquit the Guilty. What sentence the law affirms to a Traitor, Tyrant, a Murderer, and a public Enemy to the Country, that Sentence you are now to hear read unto you; and that is the Sentence of the Court.

The Lord President commands the Sentence to be read: make an O yes, and command Silence while the Sentence is read.

O yes made: Silence commanded.

The Clerk read the Sentence, which was drawn up in Parchment:

“Whereas the Commons of England in Parliament had appointed them an High Court of Justice, for the Trying of Charles Stuart, King of England, before whom he had been three times convened; and at the first time a Charge of High-Treason, and other Crimes and Misdemeanors, was read in the behalf of the Kingdom of England,” &c. [Here the Clerk read the Charge.] “Which Charge being read unto him, as aforesaid, he the said Charles Stuart was required to give his Answer: But he refused so to do; and so expressed the several Passages of his Trial in refusing to answer.—For all which Treasons and Crimes this Court doth adjudge, That the said Charles Stuart, as a Tyrant, Traitor, Murderer, and a Public Enemy, shall be put to Death, by the severing his Head from his Body.

After the Sentence read, the Lord President said, This Sentence now read and published, is the Act, Sentence, Judgment, and Resolution of the whole Court.

Here the Court stood up, as assenting to what the President said.

King. Will you hear me a word, Sir?

Ld. President. Sir, you are not to be heard after the Sentence.

King. No, Sir!

Ld. President. No, Sir; by your favour, Sir. Guard, withdraw you Prisoner.

King. I may speak after the Sentence——By your Favour, Sir, I may Speak after the Sentence ever.

By your Favour, (Hold!) the Sentence, Sir—

I say, Sir, I do——

I am not suffered for to speak: Expect what Justice other People will have.

O yes: All manner of Persons that have any thing else to do, are to depart at this time, and to give their attendance in the Painted Chamber; to which place this Court doth forthwith adjourn itself.

Then the Court rose, and the King went with his guard to sir Robert Cotton’s, and from thence to Whitehall.


* In the original all the Proceedings in this Case are stated to occur in 1648 agreeably to the old computation of the commencement of the year from March 25th. But here the year is computed to begin on January the 1st, and the dates are altered accordingly. Similar alterations are made generally throughout this work.

† Upon this question Prynn made his celebrated Speech, maintaining the sufficiency of His Majesty’s Answer, as a Ground, &c. See 3 Cobb. Parl. Hist. 1152. To find that the most strenuous and the most powerful efforts in his favour upon this most critical occasion had been made by Prynn, whom he had suffered his ministers in the Star Chamber to punish so barbarously [See the Cases A.D. 1633, 1637, vol. 3, pp. 562, 711] must have been a shock to the feelings of Charles, nearly as severe as that afterwards given to the feeling of his son James by the reply of the aged father of Lord Russell. See Notes to Lord Russell’s Case A.D. 1689, post.

‡ Whitelocke carefully abstained from any share in these transactions. The following particulars are extracted from his Memorials: “Dec. 26, 1648. This morning sir Thomas Widdrington and Mr. Whitelock being together, Mr. Smith who was Clerk to the Committee for preparing the Charge against the King, came to them with a Message from the Committee, that they required them to come to them this day, they having some matters of importance wherein they desired their advice, and assistance and that they must no fail them. They knew what the business was and Whitelock told sir T. Widdrington, that he as rewired not to meddle in that business about the Trial of the King; it being contrary to his judgement, as he had himself declared in the house. Sir T. Widdrington said he was of the same judgment, and would have no hand in that business, but he knew not whither to go, to be out of the way; and that the Committee might not know whither to send to him. Whitelock replied, That his coach was ready, and he this morning going out of town purposely avoid this business, and if he pleased to go with him, they might be quiet at his house in the country till this business should be over, and he should be glad of his company. He willingly consented to go with Whitelock, and was not long in preparing himself for the journey.”—”January 9, 1649. Widdrington and Whitelock by agreement went into the house morning, the Trial of the King being begun, some looked very shy upon them, others bid them welcome, and seemed glad to see them there.”—Whitelock consented to accept office of Commissioner of the new Great Seal (which Widdrington from scrupling the authority of the House of Commons refused to do) and in a speech in which he offered some reasons for wishing to decline that office, he distinctly, though warily and with mention of the ground of necessity, asserted the sufficiency the House. He also acted as a Member of Council of State, but when as such he was demanded to subscribe the test appointed by parliament for approving all that was done concerning the King and Kingship, and for taking away the House of Lords, &c he tells us, that “he scrupled that part of approving the proceedings of the High Court of Justice, because he was not privy to them, nor did know what they were in particular, nor ever heard any report of them made to the house; and not knowing what they were, he could not sign that paper, to approve of them.” Nevertheless, he afterwards prepared and brought in the Declaration to satisfy the people touching the ‘proceedings of parliament,’ as he gently expresses it, which however he says the Committee “made much sharper than he had drawn it, and added divers clauses which he thought matters fit to be omitted.” See this Declaration in 3 Cobb. Parl. Hist. 1319. Oldmixon says it was published in English, Latin, French, and Dutch.—Whitelock also prepared the act for taking away the House of Lords; or, in his own words, “It was put upon Whitelock to draw an Act to take away the House of Lords, wherein he desired to have been excused in regard he was not in the house when the Vote passed, and had declared his opinion against it, but he could not get excused.”

* Of the Debates which led to the Trial the King, lord Clarendon writes thus;

“It hath been acknowledged by some officers, and others who were present at the consultations, that from the time of the king’s being at Hampton Court, and after the army had mastered both the parliament and the city, and were weary of having the king with them, and knew not well how to be rid of him, there were many secret consults what to do with him. And it was generally concluded, ‘they should ‘never be able to settle their new form of government, whilst he lived;’ and after he was become a prisoner in the Isle of Wight, they were more solicitous for a resolution and determination in that particular: and after the vote of no more addresses, the most violent party thought ‘they could do nothing in order their own ends, till he should be first dead; and therefore, one way or other, that was to be compassed in the first place.’ Some were for ‘an actual deposing him; which could not but be easily brought to pass, since the parliament would vote any thing they should be directed.’ Others were for ‘the taking away his life by poison, which would least noise;’ or, ‘if that could not be so easily contrived, by assassination; for which there were hands enough ready to be employed.’ There was a third sort, as violent as either of the other, who pressed ‘to have him brought to a public trial as a malefactor; which,’ they said, ‘would be most for the honour of the parliament, and would teach all kings to know, that they were accountable and punishable for the wickedness of lives.’—Many of the officers were of the opinion, ‘as a thing they had precedents for; and that he being once deposed, they could better settle the government than if he were dead; for his son could pretend no right whilst he was alive; whereas, if the father were dead, he would presently call himself King, and others would call him so too; and, it may be, other kings and princes would own him for such. If he were kept alive in a close prison, he might afterwards be made use of, or removed upon any appearance of a revolution.’—There were as many officers of second judgment ‘that he should be presently dispatched.’ They said, ‘it appeared by the experience they had, that whilst he was alive (for a more strict imprisonment than he had undergone he could never be confined to) there would be always plots and designs to set him at liberty; and he would have parties throughout the kingdom, and, in a short time, a faction in their most secret councils, and it may be in the army itself; and, where his liberty would yield so great a price, it would be too great a trust to repose in any man, that he would long resist the temptation. Whereas, if he were confessedly dead, all those fears would be over, especially if they proceeded with that circumspection and severity towards all his party, as in prudence they ought to do.’ This party might probably have carried it, if Hammond could have been wrought upon to have concurred; but he had yet too much conscience to expose himself to that infamy, and without his privity or connivance it could not be done.—The third party, which were all the levellers and agitators of the army, in the head of which Ireton and Harrison were, would not endure either of the other ways, and said, ‘they could as easily bring him to justice in the sight of the sun, as depose him, since the authority of the parliament could do one as well as the other: that their precedent of deposing had no reputation with the people, but was looked upon as the effect of some potent faction, which always oppressed the people more after, than they had been before. Besides, those deposings had always been attended with assassinations and murthers, which were the more odious and detested, because nobody owned and avowed the bloody actions they had done. But if he were brought to public trial, for the notorious ill things he done, and for his misgovernment, upon the complaint and prosecution of the people, the superiority of the people would be hereby vindicated and made manifest; and they should receive the benefit, and be for ever free from those oppressions which he had imposed upon them, and for which he ought to pay so dear; and such an exemplary proceeding and execution as this, where every circumstance should be clear and notorious, would be the best foundation and security of the government they intended to establish, and no man would he ambitious to succeed him, and be a king in his place, when he saw in what manner he must he accountable to the people.’ This argumentation, or the strength and obstinacy of that party, carried it; and, hereupon, all that formality of proceeding, which afterwards was exercised, was resolved upon and consented to.—Whether the incredibility in monstrousness of such a kind of proceeding, wrought upon the minds of men, or whether the principal actors took pains, by their insinuations, to have it so believed; it fell out, however, that they among them who wished the king best, and stood nearest to the stage where these parts were acted, did not believe that there were those horrid intentions that shortly after appeared. The preachers, who had sounded the trumpets loudest to, and throughout the war, preached now as furiously against all wicked attempts and violence as against the person of the king, and foolishly urged the obligation of the Covenant (by which they had involved him in all the danger he was in) for the security of his person.”

* “This is as the king expressed it; but I suppose he meant Answer.”—former Edition.

† Clement Walker says, “Whether these breaches and interruptions were made by Bradshaw, or are omissions and expunctions of some material parts of the king’s speech, which this licensed penman durst not set down, I know not. I hear much of the king’s argument is omitted, and much depraved, none but licensed men being suffered to take notes.”

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