Charles Dickens.

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yielding to their demands, they took the king with them. It
was a deplorable thing that England should be at the mercy of
a great body of soldiers with arms in their hands , but the king
certainly favored them, at this important time of his life, as com-
pared with the more lawful pov.c r that tried to control him. It
much be added, however, that they treated him, as yet, more re-
spectfully and kindly than the Parliament had done. They
allowed him to be attended by his own servants, to be splendidly
entertained at various houses, and to see his children — at Caves-
ham House, near Reading — for two days. Whereas the Parlia-
ment had been rather hard with him, and had only allowed him
to ride out and play at bowls.

It is much to be believed, that if the king could have been
trusted, even at this time, he might have been saved. Even
Oliver Cromwell expressly said that he did believe that no man
could enjoy his possessions in peace unless the king had his
rights. He was not unfriendly towards the king ; he had been
present when he received his cinldren, and had been much
affected by the pitiable nature of the scene ; he saw the king
often ; he frequently walked and talked with him in the long
galleries and pleasant gardens of the palace at Hampton Court,
whither he was now removed ; and in all this risk something


of his influence with the army. But the king was in secret
hopes of help from the Scottish people ; and the moment he
was encouraged to join them he began to be cool to his new
friends, the army, and to tell the officers that they could not
possibly fo do without him. At the very time, too, when he was
promising to make Cromwell and Ireton noblemen, if they would
help him up to his old height, he was writing to the queen that
he meant to hang them. They both afterwards declared that
they had been privately informed that such a letter would be
found, on a certain evening, sewed up in a saddle which would
be taken to the Blue Boar in Holborn to be sent to Dover ; and
that they went there, disguised as common soldiers, and sat
drinking in the innyard until a man came with the saddle, which
they ripped up with their knives, and therein found the letter.
I see little reason to doubt the story. It is certain that Oliver
Cromwell told one of the king's most faithful followers that the
king could not be trusted, and that he would not be answerable
if anything amiss were to happen to him. Still, even after that
he kept a promise he had made to the king, by letting him know
that there was a plot with a certain portion of the arm.y to seize
him. I believe that, in fact, he sincerely wanted the king to
escape abroad, and so to be got rid of without more trouble or
danger. That Oliver himself had work enough with the army
is pretty plain ; for some of the troops were so mutinous against
him, and against those who acted with him at this time, that he
found it necessary to have one man shot at the head of his
regiment to overawe the rest.

The king, when he received Oliver's warning, make his
escape from Hampton Court ; after some indecision and uncer-
tainty, he went to Carisbrooke Castle in the Isle of Wight. At
first he was pretty free there ; but even there, he carried on a
pretended treaty with the Parliament, while he was really treat-
ing with commissioners from Scotland to send an army into
England to take his part. When he broke off this treaty with
the Parliament (having settled with Scotland), and was treated
as a prisoner, his treatment was not changed too soon, for he
had plotted to escape that very night to a ship sent by the queen,
which was lying off the island.

He was doomed to be disappointed in his hopes from Scot-
land. The agreement he had made with the Scottish Commis-
sioners was not favorable enough to the religion of that country
to please the Scottish clergy ; and they preached against it.
The consequence was, that the array raised in Scotland and
seat over was too small to do much j and that, although it was



helped by a rising of the royalists in England and by good
soldiers from Ireland, it could make no head against the parlia-
mentary army under such men as Cromwell and Fairfax. The
king's eldest son, the Prince of Wales, came over from Holland
with nineteen ships (a part of the English fleet having gone
over to him) to help his father : but nothing came of his voyage,
and he was fain to return. The most remarkable event of this
second civil war was the cruel execution by the Parliamentary
General, of Sir Charles Lucas and Sir George Lisle, two grand
Royalist generals, who had bravely defended Colchester under
every disadvantage of famine and distress for nearly three
months. When Sir Charles Lucas was shot, Sir George Lisle
kissed his body, and said to the soldiers who were to shoot
him, " Come nearer, and make sure of me." " I warrant you,
Sir George," said one of the soldiers, "we shall hit you."
" Ay ? " he returned with a smile, *' but I have been nearer to
you, my friends, many a time, and you have missed me."

The Parliament, after being fearfully bullied by the army,
— who demanded to have seven members whom they disliked
given up to them, — had voted that they would have nothing
more to do with the king. On the conclusion, however, of this
second civil war (which did not last more than six months),
they appointed commissioners to treat with him. The king,
then so far released again as to be allowed to live in a private
house at Newport, in the Isle of Wight, managed his own part
of the negotiation with a sense that was admired by all who
saw him, and gave up, in the end, all that was asked of him, —
even yielding (which he had steadily refused so far) to the tem-
porary abolition of the bishops, and the transfer of their Church
land to the crown. Still, with his old fatal vice upon him,
when his best friends joined the commissioners in beseeching
him to yield all those points as the only means of saving him-
self from the army, he was plotting to escape from the island ;
he was holding correspondence with his friends and the Catho-
lics in Ireland, though declaring that he was not ; and he was
writing, with his own hanj, that, m what he yielded, he meant
nothing but to get time to escape.

Matters were at this pass when the army, resolved to defy
the Parliament, marched up to London. The Parliament, not
afraid of them now, and boldly led by Hollis, voted that the
king's concessions were sufficient ground for settling the peace
of the kingdom. Upon that, Colonel Rich and Colonel Pride
went down to the House of Commons with a regiment of
horse-soldiers and a regiment of foot ; ^nd Colonel Pride,


standing in the lobby with a list of the members who were ob-
noxious to the army in his hand, had them pointed out to him
as they came through, and took them all into custody. This
proceeding was afterwards called by the people, for a joke,
Pride's Purge. Cromwell was in the North, at the head of his
men, at the time, but when he came home, approved of what
had been done.

What with imprisoning some members, and causing others
to stay away, the army had now reduced the House of Com-
mons to some fifty or so. These soon voted that it was treason
in a king to make war against his parliament and his people,
and sent an ordinance up to the House of Lords for the king's
being tried as a traitor. The House of Lords, then sixteen in
number, to a man rejected it. Thereupon, the Commons made
an ordinance of their own, that they were the supreme govern-
ment of the country, and would bring the king to trial.

The king had been taken for security to a place called
Hurst Castle, — a lonely house on a rock in the sea, connected
with the coast of Hampshire by a rough road two miles long at
low water. Thence he was ordered to be removed to Wind-
sor ; thence, after being but rudely used there, and having
none but soldiers to wait upon him at table, he was brought up
to St. James's Palace, in London, and told that his trial was
appointed for next day.

On Saturday, the 20th of January, 1649, ^^is memorable
trial began. The House of Commons had settled that a hun-
dred and thirty-five persons should form the court \ and these
were taken from the House itself, from among the officers of
the army, and from among the lawyers and citizens. John
Bradshaw, serjeant-at law, was appoin-ted president. The place
was Westminster Hall. At the upper end, in a red velvet
chair, sat the president, with his hat (lined with plates of iron
for his protection) on his head. The res«^ of the court sat on
side benches, also wearing their hats. The king's seat was
covered with velvet, like that of the president, and was opposite
to it. He v/as brought from St. James's to Whitehall, and
from Whitehall he came by water to his trial.

When he came in he looked round very steadily on the
court, and on the great number of spectators, and then sat
down ; presently he got up and looked round again. On the
indictment " against Charles Stuart, for high treason," being
read, he smiled several times ; and he denied the authority oi
the court, saying that there could be no parliament without a
House of Lords, and Uiat he saw no House of Lords there.



Also that the king ought to be there, and that he saw no
king in the king's right place. Bradshavv replied, that the
court was satisfied with his authority, and that its author-
ity was God's authority and the kingdom's. He then ad-
journed the court to the following Monday. On that day
the trial was resumed, and went on all the week. When the
Saturday came, as the king passed forward to his place in the
hall, some soldiers and others cried for " justice ! " and execu-
tion on him. That day, too, Bradshaw, like an angry sultan,
wore a red robe, instead of the black robe he had worn before.
The king was sentenced to death that day. As he went out,
one solitary soldier said, " God bless you, sir ! " For this his
officer struck him. The king said he thought the punishment
exceeded the offence. The silver head cf his walking- stick had
fallen off while he leaned upon it, at one time of the trial.
The accident seemed to disturb him, as if he thought it ominous
of the falling of his own head ; and he admitted as much, now
it was all over.

Being taken back to Whitehall, he sent to the House of
Commons, saying, that, as the time of his execution might be
nigh, he wished he might be allowed to see his darling children.
It was granted. On the Monday he was taken back to St.
James's ; and his two children then in England, the Princess
Elizabeth, thirteen years old, and the Duke of Gloucester, nine
years old, were brought to take leave of him, from Sion House,
near Brentford. It was a sad and touching scene, when he
kissed and fondled those poor children, and made a little pres-
ent of two diamond seals to the princess, and gave them tender
messages t'^ their mother (who little deserved them, for she had
a lover of her own whom she married soon afterwards), and
told them that he died " for the laws and liberties of the land."
I am bound to say that I don't think he did ; but I daresay he
believed so.

There were ambassadors from Holland, that day, to inter-
cede for the unhappy king, whom you and I both wish the
Parliament had spared ; but they got no answer. The Scot-
tish commisioners interceded too ; so did the Prince of Wales,
by a letter in which he offered, as the next heir to the throne,
to accept any conditions from the Parliament ; so did the
queen, by letter likewise, Fotwithstanding all, the warrant
for the execution was this day signed. There is a story, that
as Oliver Cromwell went to the table with the pen in his hand
to put his signature to it, he drew his pen across the face of
one of the commissioners, who was standing near, and marked


it with ink. The commissioner had not signed his own naU
yet ; and the story adds, tliat, when he came to do it, he marked
Cromwell's face with ink in the same way.

The king slept well, untroubled by the knowledge that it
was his last night on earth_, and rose on the 30th of January,
two hours before day, and dressed himself carefully. He put
on two sliirts, lest he should tremble with the cold, and had
his hair very carefully combed. The warrant had been directed
to three officers of the army, — Colonel Hacker, Colonel
Hunks, and Colonel Phayer. At ten o'clock, the first of these
came to the door, and said it was time to go to Whitehall.
The king, who had always been a quick walker, walked at his
usual speed through the park, and called out to the guard with
his accustomed voice of command, " March on, apace ! " When
he came to Whitehall, he was taken to his own bedroom, where,
a breakfast was set forth. As he had taken the sacrament, he
would eat nothing more ; but at about the time when the
church-bells struck twelve at noon (for he had to wait, through
the scaffold not being ready), he took the advice of the good
Bishop Juxon who was with him, and ate a little bread, and
drank a glass of claret. Soon after he had taken this refresh-
ment, Colonel Hacker came to the chamber with the warrant
in his hand, and called for Charles Stuart.

And then, through the long gallery of Whitehall Palace,
which he had often seen light and gay and merry and crowded,
in very different times, the fallen king passed along, until he
came to the centre window of the Banqueting House through
which he emerged upon the scaffold, which was hung with
black. He looked at the two executioners, who were dressed
in black and masked ; he looked at the troops of soldiers on
horseback and on foot, and all looked up at him in silence ; he
looked at the vast array of spectators, filling up the view be-
yond, and turning all their faces upon him, he looked at his old
Palace of St. James's ; and he looked at the block. He seemed
a little troubled to find that it was so low, and asked, " if there
v/ere no place higher." Then to those upon the scaffokK he
said, " that it was the Parliament who had begun the war, and
not he ; but he hoped they might be guiltless too, as ill instru-
ments had gone between them. In one respect," he said, " he
suffered justly; and that was because he had permitted an un-
just sentence to be executed on another. In this he referred
to the Earl of Strafford.

He was not at all afraid to die ; but he was anxious to die
easily. When some one touched the axe while he was speak-



ing, he broke off and called out, " Take heed of the axe ; take
heed of the axe ! " He also said to Colonel Hacker, *' Take
care that they do not put me to pain." He told the executioner,
*' I shall say but very short prayers, and then thrust out my
hands," — as the sign to strike.

He put his hair up under a white satin cap, which the bishop
had carried, and said, " I have a good cause and a gracious
God on my side." The bishop told him that he had but one
stage more to travel in this weary world, and that, though it
was a turbulent and troublesome stage, it was a short one, and
would carry him a great way, — all the way from earth to heaven.
The king's last word, as he gave his cloak and the George —
the decoration from his breast — to the bishop, was, " Remem-
ber ! " He then kneeled down, laid his head on the block,
spread out his hands, and was instantly killed. One universal
groan broke from the crowd ; and the soldiers, who had sat on
their horses and stood in their ranks immovable as statues,
were of a sudden all in motion, clearing the streets.

Thus, in the forty-ninth year of his age, falling at the same
time of his career as Strafford had fallen in his, perished
Charles the First. With all my sorrow for him, I cannot agree
with him that he died " the martyr of the people " ; for the
people had been martyrs to him, and to his ideas of a king's
rights, long before. Indeed, I am afraid that he was but a bad
judge of martyrs ; for he had called that infamous Duke of
Buckingham " the Martyr of his Sovereign."



Before sunset, on the memorable day on which King
Charles the First was executed, the House of Commons passed
an act declaring it treason in any one to proclaim the Prince of
Wales, or anybody else, King of England. Soon afterwards, it
declared that the House of Lords was useless and dangerous,
and ought to be abolished; and directed that the late king's
statue should be taken down from the Royal Exchange in the
city, and other public places. Having laid hold of some famous
royalists who had escaped from prison, and having beheaded


the Duke of Hamilton, Lord Holland, and Lord Capel, in
Palace Yard (all of whom died very courageously), they then
appointed a council of state to govern the country. It con-
sisted of forty-one members, of whom five were peers. Brad-
shaw was made president. The House of Commons also
readmitted members who had opposed the king's death, and
made up its members to admit about a hundred and fifty.

But it still had an army of more than forty thousand men
to deal with, and a very hard task it was to manage them. Be-
fore the king's execution, the army had appointed some of its
officers to remonstrate between them and the Parliament ; and
now the common soldiers began to take that office upon them-
selves. The regiments under orders for Ireland mutinied ; one
troop of horse in the city of London seized their own flag, and
refused to obey orders. For this the ringleader was shot,
which did not mend the matter ; for both his comrades and the
people made a public funeral for him, and accompanied the
body to the grave with sound of trumpets, and with a gloomy
procession of persons carrying bundles of rosemary steeped in
blood. Oliver was the only man to deal with such difiiculties
as these ; and he soon cut them short by bursting at midnight
into the town of Burford, near Salisbury, were the mutineers
were sheltered, taking four hundred of them prisoners, and
shooting a number of them by sentence of court-martial. The
soldiers soon found, as all men did, that Oliver was not a man
to be trifled with. And there was an end of the mutiny.

The Scottish Parliament did not know Oliver yet, so, on
hearing of the king's execution, it proclaimed the Prince of
Wales, king Charles the Second, on condition of his respecting
the solemn League and Covenant. Charles was abroad at that
time, and so was Montrose, from whose help he had hopes
enough to keep him holding on and off with commissioners
from Scotland, just as his father might have done. These
hopes were soon at an end ; for Montrose, having raised a few
hundred exiles in Germany, and landed with them in Scotland,
found that the people there, instead of joining him, deserted
the country at his approach. He was soon taken prisoner, and
carried to Edinburgh. There he was received with every pos-
sible insult, and carried to prison in a cart, his officers going
two and two before him. He was sentenced by the pariiament
to be hanged on a gallows thirty feet high, to have his head set
on a spike in Edinburgh, and his limbs distributed in other
places, according to the old barbarous manner. He said he
had always acted under the royal orders, and only wished he



had limbs enough to be distributed through Christendom, that
it might be the more widely known how loyal he had been.
He went to the scaffold in a bright and brilliant dress, and
made a bold end at thirty-eight years of age. The breath was
scarcely out of his body when Charles abandoned his memory,
and denied that he liad ever given him orders to rise in his be-
half. O, the family failing was strong in that Charles then !

Oliver had been appointed by the Parliament to command
the army in Ireland, where he took a terrible vengeance for the
sanguinary rebellion, and made tremendous havoc, particularly
in the siege of Drogheda, v/liere no quarter was given, and
where he found at least a thousand of the inhabitants shut up
together in the great church, every one of whom was killed by
his soldiers, usually known as Oliver's Ironsides. There were
numbers of friars and priests among them ; and Oliver gruffly
wrote home in his despatch that these were " knocked on the
head " like the rest.

But Charles having got over to Scotland, where the men of
the Solemn League and Covenant led him a prodigiously dull
life, and made him very weary with long sermons and grim
Sundays, the Parliament called the redoubtable Oliver home to
knock the Scottish men on the head for setting up that prince.
Oliver left his son-in-law, Ireton, as general in Ireland, in his
stead (he died there afterwards), and he imitated the example of
his father-in-law with such good will, that he brought the country
to subjection, and laid it at the feet of the Parliament. In the
end, they passed an act for the settlement of Ireland, generally
pardoning all the common people, but exempting from this grace
such of the wealthier sort as had been concerned in the rebellion,
or in any killing of Protestants, or who refused to lay down their
arms. Great numbers of Irish were got out of the country to
serve under Catholic powers abroad ; and a quantity of land
was declared to have been forfeited by past offences, and was
given to people who had lent money to the Parliament early in
the war. These were sweeping measures ; but if Oliver Crom-
well had his own way fully, and had stayed in Ireland, he
would have done more yet.

However, as I have said, the Parliament wanted Oliver for
Scotland ; so home Oliver came, and was made commander of
all the forces of the Commonwealth of England, and in three
days away he went with sixteen thousand soldiers to fight the
Scottish men. Now, the Scottish men being then — as you will
generally find them now — mighty cautious, reflected that the
troops they had were not used to war like the Ironsides, and


vvoulA jDC beaten in an open fight. Therefore they said, " If
we lie quiet in our trenches in Edinburgh here, and if all the
farmers came into the town and desert the country, the Iron-
sides will be driven out by iron hunger, and be forced to go
away." This was, no doubt, the wisest plan ; but as the Scot-
tish clergy would interfere with what they knew nothing about,
and would perpetually preach long sermons, exhorting the sol-
diers to come out and fight, the soldiers got it in their heads
that they absolutely must come out and fight. Accordingly, in
an evil hour for themselves, they came out of their safe position,
Oliver fell upon them instantly, and killed three thousand, and
took ten thousand prisoners.

To gratify the Scottish Parliament, and preserve their favor,
Charles had signed a declaration they laid before him reproach'
ing the memory of his father and mother, and representing him-
self as a most religious prince, to whom the Solemn League and
Covenant was as dear as life. He meant no sort of truth in
this, and soon afterwards galloped away on horseback to join
some tiresome Highland friends, who were always flourishing
dirks and broadswords. He was overtaken, and induced to re-
turn ; but this attempt, which was called *' The Start," did him
just so much service, that they did not preach quite such long
sermons at him afterwards as they had done before.

On the I St of January, 1651, the Scottish people crowned
him at Scone. He immediately took the chief command of an
army of twenty thousand men, and marched to Stirling. His
hopes were heightened, I daresay, by the redoubtable Oliver
being ill of an ague, but Oliver scrambled out of bed in no
time, and went to work with such energy that he got behind
the royalist army, and cut it off from all communication with
Scotland. There was nothing for it then but to go on to Eng-
land ; so it went on as far as Worcester, where the mayor and
some of the gentry proclaimed King Charles the Second straight-
way. His proclamation, however, was of little use to him ; for
very few royalists appeared ; and, on the very same day, two
people were publicly beheaded on Tower Hill for espousing his
cause. Up came Oliver to Worcester too, at double-quick
speed ; and he and his Ironsides so laid about them in the
great battle which was fought there, that they completely beat
the Scottish men, and destroyed the royalist army, though the

Online LibraryCharles DickensA child's history of England → online text (page 33 of 38)