Fact of the day: 30th January

On this day in 1649 Charles I was executed.

Charles I was monarch of the three kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649.

PGL 208

Charles was the second son of King James VI of Scotland, but after his father inherited the English throne in 1603, he moved to England, where he spent much of the rest of his life. He became heir apparent to the English, Irish and Scottish thrones on the death of his elder brother in 1612.

He walked under guard from St James’s Palace, where he had been confined, to the Palace of Whitehall, where an execution scaffold was erected in front of the Banqueting House. Charles was separated from spectators by large ranks of soldiers, and his last speech reached only those with him on the scaffold. He blamed his fate on his failure to prevent the execution of his loyal servant Strafford: “An unjust sentence that I suffered to take effect, is punished now by an unjust sentence on me.” He declared that he had desired the liberty and freedom of the people as much as any, “but I must tell you that their liberty and freedom consists in having government … It is not their having a share in the government; that is nothing appertaining unto them. A subject and a sovereign are clean different things.”  He continued, “I shall go from a corruptible to an incorruptible Crown, where no disturbance can be.”

At about 2 p.m. Charles put his head on the block after saying a prayer and signalled the executioner when he was ready by stretching out his hands; he was then beheaded with one clean stroke. According to observer Philip Henry, a moan “as I never heard before and desire I may never hear again” rose from the assembled crowd, some of whom then dipped their handkerchiefs in the king’s blood as a memento.

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