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Reign of Charles I. (Concluded.) page 11


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Every one must regret and condemn the sale of those noble works of art, both British and foreign, which Charles had collected, and which the leaders of the commonwealth had sent out of the kingdom. Travellers who now gaze on those at the Escurial, or at those in the Belvidere Palace at Vienna, the especial selection of Rubens' own gallery of his works, with British subjects besides, must deplore this proceeding. But it may be said in vindication of the monarchs thus attacked by the historian of royalty, that there was not one whom Charles had not contrived to make as implacably his enemy as he had done his own subjects. His treatment of the king of Spain about the marriage of his sister, his after quarrel with and attack on France, the neglect of the generals of queen Christina, the daughter of the great Gustavus Adolphus, when fighting for his sister and her son in Germany, and the very dubious prospect of ever being repaid by Charles II., remove the wonder and the blame from those royal persons in a great measure.

As to Charles's own family, the immediate prospect of his death at last roused them Queen Henrietta - though the French memoir writers positively declare that she had, during the king's life, a child by lord Jermyn - whom she soon after married - which is stated as an undoubted fact by bishop Burnet - at the news of the king's danger, wrote a very earnest letter to the speaker of the commons, praying to be allowed to come to England, to endeavour to persuade the king to consent to all their desires. But it was too late; the parliament had made up its mind, and would not allow the letter to be read. Prince Charles also sent over a carte blanche signed by his own hand and sealed with his seal, and a letter to Fairfax, saying that they had only to write on the carte blanche the terms of the grant of his father's life, and that his seal and signature thus made them obligatory upon him. They might thus have accepted even his abdication, or any the amplest conditions for his restoration; but they declined the offer. The States of Holland, too, sent an embassage to intercede for his life, but neither to that nor to the remonstrance of the Scottish parliament did they return any answer till all was over.

Charles slept well, but woke early, and bade his man Herbert rise and dress him with care, for it was his second marriage day, and he would be as trim as possible. Whilst Herbert dressed him, he told him he had dreamt of archbishop Laud, who, on the king speaking seriously to him had sighed and fallen prostrate. Charles said, had he no been dead, he might possibly have said something to Laud to cause him to sigh; so that it is possible he felt that Laud's proceedings and advice had brought things to this pass. He desired to have two shirts on, as the weather was very cold; as if he shook, the rogues would think it was through fear. He observed that he was glad he had slept at St. James's, as the walk through the park would warm him. At ten o'clock the summons came - colonel Hacker knocked at the door to say they were ready. Hacker turned pale on seeing the king come out, and was much affected. Ten companies of infantry formed a double line on each side of his path, and a detachment preceded him with banners flying and drums beating.

On the king's right walked Juxton, on his left the parliamentary colonel Tomlinson, bareheaded. The king walked through the park at a brisk rate, and said to the guard, "Come, my good fellows, step on apace." He pointed out a tree planted by his brother Henry, and on arriving at Whitehall, he ascended the stairs with a light step, passed through the long gallery, and went to his chamber, where he remained with Juxton in religious exercise. It was past one o'clock before he was summoned to the scaffold, where the executioner, Brandon, and Hulet, a sergeant appointed to assist him, were ready disguised in black masks, awaited him. The scaffold was raised in the street, in front of the Banqueting House at Whitehall, and he passed through a window which had been taken out, upon it. All was hung with black cloth, and in the middle of the scaffold stood the block, with the axe enveloped in black crape lying on it.

Charles made a speech, in which he denied making war on the parliament, but the parliament on him, by claiming the militia. That church, lords, and commons, had been subverted with the sovereign power; that if he would have consented to reign by the mere despotism of the sword, he might have lived and remained king. He declared that he forgave all his enemies; and yet when the executioner knelt and begged his forgiveness, he said, "No, I forgive no subject of mine, who comes deliberately to shed my blood." He declared that the nation would never prosper till they placed his son on the throne; and to the last moment, rooted ii} his theory of divine right, denied that the people ought to have any share in the government, that being a thing "nothing pertaining to them," and yet that "he died the martyr of the people."

Whilst he spoke some one disturbed the axe, on which he turned and said, "Have a care of the axe; if the edge be spoiled, it will be the worse for me." After concluding his speech, he put up his hair under a cap, and the bishop observed, "There is but one stage more, which, though turbulent and troublesome, is yet a very short one. Consider it will carry you a great way - even from earth to heaven." "I go," said the king, "from a corruptible crown to an incorruptible, where no disturbance can take place." "You are exchanged from a temporal to an eternal crown - a good exchange," replied the bishop. The king then took off his cloak, and gave his George to Juxton, saying impressively, "Remember!" The warning being J supposed, as the medallion of the George concealed a portrait of Henrietta, to regard a message to his wife. Having laid his head on the block, the executioner severed it at a single stroke, and Hulet, the sergeant, holding it up, cried, "Here is the head of a traitor." At that sight a universal groan seemed to go through the crowd.

The body lay at Whitehall, to be embalmed, till the 7th of February, when it was conveyed to Windsor, and laid in the vault of St. George's Chapel, near the coffins of Henry VIII. and Jane Seymour. The day was very snowy, and the coffin being deposited without any service, was left without any inscription except the words, "Charles Rex, 1648," the letters of which were cut out of a band of lead by the gentlemen present, with their penknives, and the lead folded round the coffin. In this condition it was discovered in 1813, when George IV., attended by Sir Henry Halford, had it opened, and found proof that the head had been separated from the body.

Such was the end of Charles I., the martyr of absolutism and of the kingcraft in which his father had fatally educated him. In his private character, the most amiable of men - in his public one, the most pestilent of kings; honourably faithful to his inherited and destructive dogmas, perfidious to the last in all his dealings with the parliament and people. Whilst we sympathise with his misfortunes, and deplore his bloody end, we are bound to admit that he brought them down entirely on himself, and that his doom, though severe, was just and necessary. His execution has, by a modern Writer, been pronounced a political blunder, because the very act which extinguished his life, raised a new king into his place. But this circumstance had been well foreseen, and thoroughly weighed by the reformers. There were three proposals discussed by them - one to restore him under cogent restrictions, that was the proposal of the presbyterians; the second to try, condemn, and depose him, but to spare his life, and detain him in custody; the third, to put him to death. But to the first it was objected, that twenty-two years of sad experience and unintermitted struggle in parliament and in the battle-field, had proved, beyond hope of change, that on the very first opportunity he would break through every condition, and resume the old and sanguinary conflict. To the second it was objected, that so long as he lived, though in strict custody, he would be the nucleus of perpetual plots, feuds, and miseries; that his genius was essentially for intrigue, and no one could foresee what turn of affairs might occur to favour him and his partizans. That, as it regarded the third, though it was true, as Clarendon says, many officers contended "that the son could pretend to no right whilst he was alive, yet, if the father were dead, he would presently call himself king, and others would call him so too;" still, admitting this, the objection could not outweigh the advantages of condignly punishing him; that it was necessary to show to kings and to nations, that treason in monarchs should meet with its reward as much as in subjects; that thousands had fallen by the hands of kings on the charge of breach of trust towards them, and that it was necessary for pure and equal justice that kings should suffer for flagrant breach of trust to their people; that Charles had been the cause of the bloody death of thousands, and that his death ought to be placed as a warning against such perpetrations of calamities by kings on their subjects in future; that if the death was due, no fear of inconvenience should suffer them to shrink from demanding it; that if they believed another form of government, or the election of another king, was more deserving of support, it became them, as brave men and Englishmen, to defend and maintain that position at all hazards. This was the conclusion at which they arrived, and the act of the whole people in 1688 confirmed the propriety of their decision to all posterity.

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Pictures for Reign of Charles I. (Concluded.) page 11

Cromwell discovering the Kings letter
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Carisbrook Castle
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Cromwell suppressing the mutiny
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Carisbrook
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John Bradshaw
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Hurst Castle
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Removal of Charles
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King Charles summonde to execution
King Charles summonde to execution >>>>

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