« AnteriorContinuar »
densely crowded, and every avenue was strongly guarded by soldiers. The commissioners, to the number of sixty-six, went in procession to the hall, in full state. The king was brought in a sedan chair from St. James's to Whitehall, and from thence to the place of trial.
The arrangements within the hall were as follows: there was a long table behind which sat the president in a chair of crimson velvet, behind him and in a line with him were the commissioners on seats covered with scarlet. At the table sat two clerks. On the table were the mace and
sword. At the bottom of the table directly facing the president was a chair for the king. Below, the hall was densely crowded, as were also the galleries on both sides. The commissioners all sat with their hats on. The king also wore his hat. When he appeared at the bar he glared round at the people and sternly eyed the commissioners, after which he sat down and awaited the opening of the proceedings.
Bradshaw addressed the king-" Charles Stuart, King of England, the people being deeply sensible of the calamities which have been brought on the nation, which are fixed upon you as the principal author of them, have resolved to make inquisition for blood, and according to that debt and
due they owe to justice, to God, the kingdom, and themselves, they are resolved to bring you to trial and judgment, and for this purpose have constituted this high court of justice before which you are brought."
Then the solicitor-general rose to make the charge, and notwithstanding that the king interrupted him by tapping him lightly on the shoulder with his cane-in doing which its gold head dropped off-went on with his speech and ordered the clerk to read the formal indictment. Charles again endeavoured to interrupt the proceedings, but finding his efforts in vain, sat calmly-only smiling when he heard himself accused of treason. It was a strange language for a king's ears.
The charge being finished, Bradshaw the president demanded the answer of the prisoner at the bar. The only answer Charles condescended to make was that he acknowledged no authority superior to his own; that he would not yield his right nor submit to a self-elected court. He was indignant at the insult put on him, and demanded in his turn what answer they (the Commissioners) had to make for this outrage on his royal authority. "By what authority am I here? I mean lawful authority, for there are many unlawful authorities in the world-thieves and robbers by the highways. Remember, I am your lawful king: let me know by what lawful authority I am seated here; resolve me that, and you shall hear from me."
There was but one answer, and this answer was not plainly given in word. The king was there because the Commons had revolutionized the country-because they had asserted the majesty of the people as superior to the majesty of the king-because whether the king was satisfied as to their lawful authority or no, they were quite satisfied with it themselves. This, in point of fact, was the final answer of Bradshaw to the king's repeated demand, "Shew me your authority." Still the king refused to acknowledge the legality of the court, declining to plead, yet insisting on being heard, maintaining to the last a bold front, and glancing round at the crowded court with an air as kingly as when he was crowned.
The trial lasted three days: on the third day the commissioners having received evidence as to the late civil war having been provoked by the king, retired to consider their verdict, and unanimously declared him guilty. The names of the commissioners were read over. It was remarked, that in calling over the court, when the crier pronounced the name of Lord Fairfax, which had been inserted in the number, a voice from the gallery exclaimed, "He has more prudence than to be here." When the impeachment was read, "In the name of the good people of
England," "That is a falsehood," replied the same voice in a shriller tone, "not a half nor a quarter: where are the people or their representatives? Oliver Cromwell is a rogue and a traitor." Axtell, the officer who guarded the court, gave orders to fire at the place from whence these insolent speeches proceeded; but it was discovered that Lady Fairfax was there, and that it was she who had the courage to utter them. She was a person of noble birth, the daughter of Horace, Lord Vere, of Tilbury; she had long encouraged her husband's zeal against the royal cause, and
was now, like himself, filled with abhorrence at the fatal and unexpected consequences of all his victories and successes.
After order was restored, Bradshaw-Charles still attempting to interfere-pronounced sentence: "That the court being satisfied in conscience that he, Charles Stuart, was guilty of the crimes of which he had been accused, did adjudge him as a tyrant, traitor, murderer, and public enemy of the good people of this nation, to be put to death by severing his head from his body."
The king again endeavoured to speak, but was sternly forbidden, the guards being ordered to remove him from the bar. He was taken back to St. James's Palace, where he spent the remainder of the day, Sunday the 28th, and Monday the 29th of January-the execution being fixed for Tuesday the 30th. Bishop Juxon was in attendance on him, and he was allowed an interview with his children, the Duke of Gloucester and the Princess Elizabeth. The interview, an account of which was afterwards written by the princess, was extremely affecting.
The king did not perish without an effort to save him. Prince Charles sent over a carte blanche, signed in his own hand and sealed with his seal, only entreating the Parliament to spare his father's life and make what terms they pleased. The States of Holland interceded; the Scottish Parliament protested; but protest, intercession, and appeal were all alike in vain.
On the morning of his execution Charles dressed himself with peculiar care, saying it was his second marriage day and he would be as trim as possible. He wore two shirts, saying if he shivered with the cold the
England," "That is a falsehood," replied the same voice in
THE STORY OF THE KING AND THE "
rdered to remove him from t
in endeavoured to speak, but we ..
izabeth. The interview,
up under a
age more, which, ort one. Consider, it
e to an incorruptible crown
"a temporal for an eternal crown
divested himself of his George, and gave it e word "Remember." He then, without any of fear, laid his head on the block. There was
de axe flashed in the light of a wintry sunbeam—a heavy
the Commons had killed the king.