Works of Charles I


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The Execution of Charles I

[1649]

"I shall be very little heard of any body here; I shall therefore speak a word unto you here.

"Indeed I could hold my peace very well, if I did not think that holding my peace would make some men think that I did submit to the guilt as well as to the punishment; but I think it is my duty, to God first, and to my country, for to clear myself both as an honest man, and a good king, and a good Christian.

"I shall begin first with my innocency. In truth, I think it is not very needful for me to insist upon this, for all the world knows that I never did begin a war first with the two houses of Parliament; and I call God to witness, to whom I must shortly make an account, that I never did intend for to encroach upon their privileges.

"Now for to show you that I am a good Christian; I hope there is a good man that will bear me witness that I have forgiven all the world, and even those in particular that have been the chief causes of my death. Who they are, God knows, I do not desire to know. I pray God forgive them."

Then turning to a gentleman that touched the axe, he said:

"Hurt not the axe, that may hurt me."

"Truly I desire their [the people’s] liberty and freedom as much as anybody whomsoever; but I must tell you that their liberty and freedom consists 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, sir; 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 now 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."

Then the bishop said:

"Though it be very well known what your Majesty’s affections are to the Protestant religion, yet it may be expected that you should say somewhat for the world’s satisfaction in that particular."

Whereupon the king replied:

"In truth, sirs, my conscience in religion, I think, is very well known to all the world; and therefore I de-dare before you all that I die a Christian, according to the profession of the Church of England, as I found it left me by my father: and this honest man, I think, will witness it."

Then turning to the officers, he said:

"Sirs, excuse me for this same. I have a good cause, and I have a gracious God. I will say no more."

Then to Colonel Hacker he said:

"Take care that they do not put me to pain. And, sir, this, and it please you—"

But a gentleman coming near the axe, the king said:

"Take heed of the axe; pray take heed of the axe."

And to the executioner, he said: "I shall say but very short prayers, and when I thrust out my hands—"

Then he called to the bishop for his cap, and having put it on, asked the executioner:

"Does my hair trouble you?"

[The executioner] desired him to put it all under his cap; which, as he was doing by the help of the bishop and the executioner, he turned to the bishop, and said:

"I have a good cause, and a gracious God on my side."

The bishop said: "There is but one stage more; which, though turbulent and troublesome, yet is a very short one. You may consider it will soon carry you a very great way; it will carry you from earth to heaven; and there you shall find, to your great joy, the prize you hasten to, a crown of glory."

The king adjoins: "I go from a corruptible to an incorruptible crown; where no disturbance can be, no disturbance in the world."

The bishop: "You ate exchanged from a temporal to an eternal crown,—a good exchange."

Then the king asked the executioner: "Is my hair well?"

And taking off his cloak and George [the jeweled Order of the Garter, bearing a figure of St. George], he delivered his George to the bishop, saying, "Remember."

Then putting off his doublet, and being in his waistcoat, he put on his cloak again, and looking upon the block, said to the executioner: "You must set it fast."

The executioner: "It is fast, sir."

The king: "It might have been a little higher."

The executioner: "It can be no higher, sir."

The king: "When I put out my hands this way, then—"

Then having said a few words to himself, as he stood, with hands and eyes lifted up, immediately stooping down he laid his neck upon the block; and the executioner, again putting his hair under his cap, his Majesty, thinking he had been going to strike, bade him: "Stay for the sign."

The executioner: "Yes, I will, and it please your Majesty."

After a very short pause, his Majesty stretching forth his hands, the executioner at one blow severed his head from his body; which, being held up and showed to the people, was with his body put into a coffin covered with black velvet and carried into his lodging.

His blood was taken up by divers persons for different ends: by some as trophies of their villainy; by others as relics of a martyr; and in some hath had the same effect, by blessing of God, which was often found in his sacred touch when living.

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Chicago: Works of Charles I in History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, ed. Louis Leo Snyder and Richard B. Morris (Harrisburg, Pa.: Stackpole Co., 1951), Original Sources, accessed December 5, 2022, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=J9GJFTV39IS5SMD.

MLA: . Works of Charles I, in History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, edited by Louis Leo Snyder and Richard B. Morris, Harrisburg, Pa., Stackpole Co., 1951, Original Sources. 5 Dec. 2022. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=J9GJFTV39IS5SMD.

Harvard: , Works of Charles I. cited in 1951, History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, ed. , Stackpole Co., Harrisburg, Pa.. Original Sources, retrieved 5 December 2022, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=J9GJFTV39IS5SMD.