In 1642, six months before Edgehill, the first battle of the English Civil War, Charles I made two attempts to enter the city of Hull to seize control of its armoury but was refused entry on both occasions by its governor Sir John Hotham. The king’s army was forced to retreat, probably making their way to Hessle, a royalist stronghold, while the disgruntled king declared Hotham a traitor.
By the 22nd of August, King Charles moved on to the City of Nottingham. Here he raised his royal standard thus marking the beginning of the English Civil War.
The weather in January of 1649 was bitterly cold, it was not a good day for an execution, especially when the man standing on the scaffold was the king of England.
On the 30th King Charles waited inside the Banqueting House in Whitehall for the doors to be opened so that he might make his way to the scaffold that had been erected outside. Maybe there was ice on the windows, as history tells us Charles asked to wear two heavy shirts so that he might not shiver in the cold. Charles did not wish that his people think that he was afraid.
Charles I was beheaded that day - he said:
"... truly I desire their liberty and freedom as much as anybody whomsoever; but I must tell you that their liberty and freedom consist in having of government, those laws by which their life and their goods may be most their own. It is not for having share in government, sirs; that is nothing pertaining to them; a subject and a sovereign are clear different things. And therefore until they do that, I mean that you do put the people in that liberty, as I say, certainly they will never enjoy themselves. Sirs, it was for this that now I am come here. If I would have given way to an arbitrary way, for to have all laws changed according to the power of the sword, I needed not to have come here; and therefore I tell you (and I pray God it be not laid to your charge) that I am the martyr of the people..."
An observer in the crowd said of the execution:
'There was such a groan by the thousands then present as I never heard before and desire I may never hear again’.
Poor Charles, yes he was his own worst enemy, but did he deserve a death such as this?
On the 24th September in 1645 The Battle of Rowton Moor - a Parliamentarian victory.
King Charles viewed the battlefield from the Phoenix Tower (it's often now referred to as the King Charles' Tower) on the north/east corner of Chester City walls. From this vantage point, the king witnessed the defeat of the last of his cavalry.
By the middle of the seventeenth, the tower had fallen into a dilapidated state. Largely due to the battering it had received during the Civil War siege, the upper parts of the tower had to be rebuilt.
While researching the reign of Charles I, I discovered that in 1813 Sir Henry Halford, King George IV's physician was asked to examine the body of Charles I. He found the skin was discoloured, the nose was missing, and only a single eye and ear apparently remained. What a gruesome pass time!
Charles was laid to rest in a vault at St Georges Chapel at Windsor, (because permission was refused for his burial at Westminster Abbey) where the coffin of Henry VIII was interred. On entering the vault it was noted that Henry VIII's coffin had been damaged, he supposed that this may have been a result of a hasty burial, speculating that the lowering of his coffin caused it to crash into that of the Tudor king.
The 1813 sketch seen here is titled Meditations Amonget the Tombs by the brilliant satirical illustrator George Cruikshank pokes fun at the whole thing.
The Battle of Naseby was fought this day in 1645.
It was the key battle of the first English Civil War and a decisive defeat for the Royalist forces.
"After Hastings and the Battle of Britain, which respectively began and ended the last millennium, Naseby was arguably the most important and decisive battle ever fought in England. Where those other battles were the result of challenges to the very basis of the kingdom by foreign foes, Naseby was the culmination of a bloody Civil War and the stepping stone for a political revolution."
Many issues dominated parliament during the reign of Charles I but it would be religion that would prove to be the most divisive issue that both Charles and Parliament would have to deal with.
At the end of 1640, Charles had recalled the Long Parliament whose members had used this opportunity to attack men they considered enemies of the Crown, namely Thomas Wentworth and Archbishop William Laud.
Wentworth and Laud were seen as the embodiment of all that was wrong with England at this time. It was on this day in 1641 that Wentworth was executed, Laud would follow him to the scaffold four years later.
You can read a little bit more on England at this time on my website at
“Give great praise to the Lord and little Laud to the Devil" was a popular saying in the time of King Charles I, it was in reference to William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, who was beheaded on Tower Hill in London on this day in 1645.
William Laud was a supporter of Charles I, he believed that Charles had the God-given right to rule by divine right - a view strongly held by Charles himself. Laud was against Puritan reform of the church.
The charges brought against Laud was that he undermined the laws of England and therefore endangered the Protestant faith, however, these charges were never actually proved. Nevertheless, William Laud was convicted by a bill of attainder by Parliament instead of a jury and his execution planned for the 9th January.
Laud requested that he died by being beheaded rather than by hanging, he was buried in the chapel of St John's College, Oxford.
An etching of Laud's trial was produced at the time that quotes from Proverbs “The righteous are delivered from trouble and the wicked get into it instead" However Laud's was being praised right up to the mid 19th century, William Gladstone, who wrote a number of sermons that he would read to his servants on a Sunday said of Laud -
"Laud as a Churchman has lasted. He lives today. His opponents have mostly disappeared from off the earth. They have left consequences, but no representatives. Laud has both."
King Charles I, who was executed this day in 1649 was not the only casualty of the Civil War, Pontefract Castle was another.
As a result of these wars this Yorkshire castle held out against three sieges. In the end though, this once mighty medieval building was, in the words of Marie Lloyd, one of the
"of the ruins that Cromwell knocked about a bit"
On the 25th of March 1625 at Westminster Abbey Charles I was crowned King of England, he spent most of this time in a power struggle for with Parliament. By 1629 Charles had had numerous arguments with his ministers which lead him to abolish Parliament.
Charles as king, could do this under what was known as Royal Prerogative, the divine right to rule, but by the middle of the century he was wading into trouble, many people regarding him as insensitive.
The West Country, the home of my maternal ancestors, were notable Royalist, suffered at this time, the town of Barnstaple for instance, changed from Royalist to Parliamentarians and back again no fewer that four times.
The year 1649 saw a great change in the governance of England, in the January of that year the trial of Charles I had begun. The country had seen the estimated deaths from the civil wars as 84,830 killed with another 100,000 dying from war related diseases, and therefore the king was held
"guilty of all the treasons, murders, rapes, burnings, spoils, desolations, damages and mischiefs to this nation”
Charles was declared guilty on Saturday 27 January 1649 and sentenced to death and was executed by beheading on the 30th January 1649.
It was on this day in 1642, that the King Charles I, accompanied by a number of soldiers, arrived at Westminster with the intent to arrest John Pym, John Hampden, Denzil Holles, Arthur Haselrig and William Strode, five Members of his Parliament on the grounds that they had encouraged the Scots to invade England.
William Strode was the son of William Strode of Plympton in Devon, if you remember my one of my previous posts, then you will know that the Strode's married into my family, eventually owning their estates in Devon.
The painting below, by Charles West Cope, shows the attempted arrest, it can be seen in the Houses of Parliament.
History is so interesting isn't it? Do you love the story of King Alfred's unsuccessful afternoon in the kitchen or King Cnut unsuccessful attempt not to get his feet wet? Maybe you're interested in when the Normans landing on our shores or the stories of an era closer to our time?