The execution of Charles I
Copy of an old MS. found behind an ancient engraving of Charles I., in the Parsonage House at Inkberghe, in the County of Worcester.
' Dr. Ed. Smallbrooke, Bishop of St. David's, informed me that, when he was chaplain of Archbishop Tennison, ye Archbishop told him as follows concerning the person that executed King Charles.'
' When the Archbishop was rector of St. Martin's, he was sent for to pray by a dying man in a poor house in Gardner's Lane, Westminster. He made haste, but found the man just expired. The people of the house told him that the man had been very anxious to see him and to confess to him that he was the executioner of King Charles ; that he was a trooper of Oliver, and that, every man in the troop having refused to do that office, Olive made them draw lots, and the lot falling upon him he did the work in a mask, and that he immediately mixed in the crowd, hiding the mask; that he had never been easy in his mind since. He had lived some time in their house, was poor and melancholy, and much distressed for want of consolation' from Dr. Tennison. Dr. Tennison was in great esteem for his good offices about dying persons. Charles lay one night, Saturday, May 10th, 1645, at the Parsonage at Inkberghe.' **
Extract from a Gazette, entitled ' Every-day Journal,' collected by J. Walker Clerc, and published by a particular Order of Parliament.
Feb. 1st, 1648.—The gazette begins with an account of King Charles' trial and condemnation, and after the sentence passed on him. follows this paragraph:—' If the King had been guiltless of the charge, who is so weake to think he would have suffered the sentence of death to have passed on him for want of pleading ? He pleaded the jurisdiction of the Court, wherein he strikes at the people's privileges to question tyrants.'
Jan. 30th,—' This morning a letter was brought from Prince Charles to the King, by one of the gentlemen belonging to the Dutch ambassador, delivered to the captain of the guard, who acquainted the King therewith, but the King refused to receive it, and desired that it might be returned back again,'
Then follows the King's speech from the scaffold, as given in all the histories, ending with his requesting Colonel Hacker to ' take care they did not put him I paine.' The gazette then proceeds,—' after some other circumstances, the executioner severed his head from his body.'
' Those of the King's line that now are, or hereafter shall be, may sadly lay it to heart, and not aspire to monarchy, considering what sad successes their predecessors have had. King Charles is beheaded ; his brother was poisoned: his sister put to exile; his eldest son exiled, her eldest son drowned; his father strongly suspected to be poisoned ; his grandfather murthered and hanged on a tree; and his grandmother beheaded.'
N.B. This gazette was read by Lord Grrenville to the King and the Prince of Orange, a few days after the execution of the unfortunate Louis XVL, to prove to them that, even in committing a great crime, the English preserved more of decency and humanity than the French. It was melancholy to read the last paragraph to the dethroned Prince of Orange, who, as well George III, is the immediate descendant of Charles.
* Lady E. Butler and Miss Ponsonby.
** Assuming this story to have any foundation in truth, the penitent must have been William Hulet, who was tried on the 16th Oct. 1000, for regicide. Evidence was given that he, and one Walker, were the two men who officiated in disguise on the scaffold; but which of them cut off the king's head, and which held it up, with the exclamation,' This is the head of a traitor,' was left in doubt. Hulet was found guilty, but pardoned on the recommendation of the judges, who disapproved the verdict.
Various other persons—Lord Stair, Colonel Joyce, &c. &c. _ have been named; and the question, ' Who cut off Charles I.'s head?” has been as eagerly discussed as,' Who was the man in the Iron Mask?' or, 'Who wrote Junius?' The weight of evidence is in favour of Richard Brandon, the common hangman, who died in 1649. See the State Trials for 1660; Ellis's Original Letters, New Series, vol. iii. 340, and Notes and Queries, passim. The index to that valuable compilation makes all its treasures easily available.