The Trial of Charles I (1649): Selected Links & Bibliography
by Lawrence MacLachlan


"The importance of the assertion of parliamentary power - even so irregularly - in the trial and execution of the the basic shape and content to the constitutional principles of Britain and most countries of the Commonwealth of Nations.”

The Official Website of the British Monarchy:  Charles I (r. 1625-1649)

The official biography chronicles the controversies and disputes of Charles’ reign which eventually led to war with the Scots and then within England.  Further details include his disagreements with Parliament over dealings with France, Spain, Ireland, Catholicism, the Scots and funding for all of these.  Charles’ practice of dissolving Parliament whenever it queried his rule led to the Triennial Act of 1641 that no more than three years could elapse between Parliaments.  Charles responded by entering the Commons in a failed attempt to arrest five Members of Parliament, who had fled before his arrival. Parliament reacted by passing a Militia Bill allowing troops to be raised only under officers approved by Parliament. Finally, on 22 August 1642 at Nottingham, Charles raised the Royal Standard calling for loyal subjects to support him . The Civil War, what Sir William Waller (a Parliamentary general and moderate) called 'this war without an enemy', had begun. In May 1646, Charles placed himself in the hands of the Scottish Army (who handed him to the English Parliament after nine months in return for arrears of payment). Charles's negotiations continued from his captivity at Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight and led to the Engagement with the Scots, under which the Scots would provide an army for Charles in exchange for the imposition of the Covenant on England. This led to the second Civil War of 1648, which ended with Cromwell's victory at Preston in August.The Army, concluding that permanent peace was impossible whilst Charles lived, decided that the King must be put on trial and executed. In December, Parliament was purged, leaving a small rump totally dependent on the Army, and the Rump Parliament established a High Court of Justice in the first week of January 1649. On 20 January, Charles was charged with high treason 'against the realm of England'. Charles refused to plead, saying that he did not recognise the legality of the High Court (it had been established by a Commons purged of dissent, and without the House of Lords - nor had the Commons ever acted as a judicature). The King was sentenced to death on 27 January. Three days later, Charles was beheaded on a scaffold outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall, London.

The Trial of King Charles I – Defining Moment for our Constitutional Liberties:   The Hon Justice Michael Kirby AC CMG , Anglo-Australian Lawyers Association, London-Great Hall, Grays Inn, January 22, 1999 on the 350th anniversary of the execution of King Charles. (Justice of the High Court of Australia. Formerly President of the International Commission of Jurists).

“The trial and execution of a king is a remarkable event in the history of any nation. The trial and execution of a King of England is so extraordinary a happening, in one of the world's oldest and most successful monarchies, that it ought not to be forgotten. The trial and execution of King Charles I, in many ways a cultivated and intelligent monarch and a devout family man, shocked the world in which it occurred. It interrupted the continuity of English monarchy with a period of military and populist rule that forever cured England of a desire to return to those dangerous forms of government.”

“And yet the assertion by the Commons House of the English Parliament of its powers over the King established a principle, written in the King's blood, which altered for all time the character of the monarchy, the Parliament and the relations between each. The vivid events of the trial and execution which followed, meant that no absolute monarch could again successfully claim the autocratic powers which King Charles I had enjoyed. These facts had profound consequences far from Whitehall where the King went to his death. In a sense they resound even today throughout the world. They underlie the rights of the people which give ultimate legitimacy to the constitutional arrangements in countries still unknown when the King faced his end...”

From the Epilogue:

“The trial of King Charles I was, by legal standards, a discreditable affair . The "Court" had no legal authority. It was the creature of the power of the army. The King had no advance notice of the charge. No one was appointed to help him with his defence. The court did not even pretend to be impartial. When the King scored a point in argument, the soldiers around the Hall showed where the real power lay. Eventually the King's refusal to answer was deemed not to be a plea of not guilty (requiring the accuser to prove the charge) but a plea of guilty to treason. This can only be understood by acceptance with the criminal procedures of the time.”

“By the standards of today, many fundamental rights were breached or ignored in the way King Charles' trial was conducted....The King was denied the chance to appeal to a true Parliament.... His deprivation of liberty, and ultimately of his life, was by the power of a purported Parliament and not by a procedure established by law. He was not informed at the time of his arrest of the charges against him... Nor was he brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorised by law to exercise the judicial power.... He had no access to a court to invoke the Great Writ to secure his liberty. Although he was treated with courtesy and dignity, he was not treated with humanity. He was kept away from his family, friends and advisers. He was surrounded by guards, informers and pimps engaged by the army for surveillance.”

“In his trial, King Charles I was not treated as an equal before the courts in that he was not put on trial in one of the regular courts of the land... The King was expressly denied the presumption of innocence....Many other rights of due process, which we take for granted, were denied to him. The right to be informed of the charge and to have adequate time and facilities to prepare his defence and to communicate with advisers; the right to be tried without delay; the right to examine or have examined the witnesses against him who gave their testimony before a committee of the Court, and the right not to be compelled to testify against himself or to confess his guilt . He had no right to have his conviction and sentence reviewed by a higher tribunal according to law. The only higher tribunal to which he ultimately appealed was the English people to whom he spoke directly from the scaffold.”

“On the other hand, it is worth noting that the revolutionaries made efforts to give a semblance of justice to the proceedings. The fact that they felt an obligation to conduct a trial at all is noteworthy. It is a reflection of the power of the trial process upon the imagination of the English people even at that time.”

“The trial was conducted in public, at least as to those parts which the King attended. It was known by the judges and the prisoner that reporters were present, and in the state of the newspapers of the time, that they would carry the King's words to the public. This was no chaotic brutality such as brought an end to the monarchy of Russia and many other kingdoms this century. The rump of the Commons at least felt an obligation to observe the outward semblance of legal process.”

“Without the trial of the King, it is inconceivable that the Glorious Revolution of 1688 would have taken place. Yet it is that revolution which finally established the system of limited or constitutional monarchy as a conditional and generally symbolic form of government, always ultimately answerable to the will of the people.... Without the Glorious Revolution, there would probably have been no American Revolution in 1766....”

“Each of these protagonists of 350 years ago had a lesson for our time. The one of the merit of continuity, legitimacy, history, the rule of law and of ancient liberties. The other the message of the sovereignty of the people, the importance of the parliamentary institutions, the legitimacy of democracy and the right of a people even to end an ancient monarchy if that is necessary to defend their own sovereign demands...”

Act Erecting a High Court of Justice for the Trial of Charles I

WHEREAS it is notorious that Charles Stuart, the now King of England, not content with those many encroachments which his predecessors had made upon the people in their rights and freedoms, hath had a wicked design totally to subvert the ancient and fundamental laws and liberties of this nation, and in their place to introduce an arbitrary and tyrannical government, and that besides all other evil ways and means to bring this design to pass, he hath prosecuted it with fire and sword, levied and maintained a civil war in the land, against the Parliament and kingdom; whereby the country hath been miserably wasted, the public treasure exhausted, trade decayed, thousands of people murdered, and infinite other mischiefs committed; for all which high and treasonable offences the said Charles Stuart might long since justly have been brought to exemplary and condign punishment; whereas also the Parliament, well hoping that the restraint and imprisonment of his person, after it had pleased God to deliver him into their hands, would have quieted the distempers of the kingdom, did forbear to proceed judicially against him, but found, by sad experience, that such their remissness served only to encourage him and his accomplices in the continuance of their evil practices, and in raising new commotions, rebellions and invasions: for prevention therefore of the like or greater inconveniences, and to the end no Chief Officer or Magistrate whatsoever may hereafter presume, traitorously and maliciously to imagine or contrive the enslaving or destroying of the English nation, and to expect impunity for so doing; be it enacted and ordained by the Commons in Parliament and it is hereby enacted and ordained by the authority thereof that Thomas, Lord Fairfax, Oliver Cromwell, Henry Ireton [* * * 135 names in all], shall be and are hereby appointed and required to be Commissioners and judges for the hearing, trying and adjudging of the said Charles Stuart; and the said Commissioners, or any twenty or more of them, shall be, and are hereby authorised and constituted an High Court of Justice, to meet and sit at such convenient time and place as by the said Commissioners, or the major part of twenty or more of them, under their hands and seals, shall be appointed and notified by public proclamation in the Great Hall or Palace Yard of Westminster; and to adjourn from time to time, and from place to place, as the said High Court, or the major part thereof meeting, shall hold fit; and to take order for the charging of him, the said Charles Stuart, with the crimes and treasons above mentioned, and for receiving his personal answer thereunto, and for examination of witnesses upon oath (which the Court hath hereby authority to administer) or otherwise, and taking any other evidence concerning the same; and thereupon, or in default of such answer, to proceed to final sentence according to justice and the merit of the cause; and such final sentence to execute, or cause be to executed, speedily and impartially.

And the said Court is hereby authorised and required to appoint and direct all such officers, attendants and other circumstances as they, or the major part of them, shall in any sort judge necessary or useful for the orderly and good managing of the premises. And Thomas, Lord Fairfax, the General, and all officers and soldiers under his command, and all officers of justice, and other well-affected persons, are hereby authorised and required to be aiding and assisting unto the said Court in the due execution of the trust hereby committed. Provided that this Act, and the authority hereby granted, do continue in force for the space of one month from the date of the making hereof, and no longer. (Passed the Commons, January 6, 1648/9. Rushworth viii. 1379.)  

Excerpts of Charles’ Defence at Trial, January 20 – 27, 1649

“I would know by what power I am called hither ... I would know by what authority, I mean lawful; there are many unlawful authorities in the world;thieves and robbers by the high-ways ... Remember, I am your King, your lawful King, and what sins you bring upon your heads, and the judgement of God upon this land. Think well upon it, I say, think well upon it, before you go further from one sin to a greater ... I have a trust committed to me by God, byold and lawful descent, I will not betray it, to answer a new unlawful authority;therefore resolve me that, and you shall hear more of me.

I do stand more for the liberty of my people, than any here that come to be mypretended judges ... I do not come here as submitting to the Court. I will standas much for the privilege of the House of Commons, rightly understood, asany man here whatsoever: I see no House of Lords here, that may constitutea Parliament ... Let me see a legal authority warranted by the Word of God,the Scriptures, or warranted by the constitutions of the Kingdom, and I will answer.

It is not a slight thing you are about. I am sworn to keep the peace, by that duty I owe to God and my country; and I will do it to the last breath of my body. And therefore ye shall do well to satisfy, first, God, and then the country, by what authority you do it. If you do it by an usurped authority, you cannot answer it; there is a God in Heaven, that will call you, and all that give you power, to account.

If it were only my own particular case, I would have satisfied myself with the protestation I made the last time I was here, against the legality of the Court, and that a King cannot be tried by any superior jurisdiction on earth: but it is not my case alone, it is the freedom and the liberty of the people of England; and do you pretend what you will, I stand more for their liberties. For if power without law, may make laws, may alter the fundamental laws of the Kingdom, I do not know what subject he is in England that can be sure of his life, or any thing that he calls his own.

I do not know the forms of law; I do know law and reason, though I am no lawyer professed: but I know as much law as any gentleman in England, and therefore, under favour, I do plead for the liberties of the people of England more than you do; and therefore if I should impose a belief upon any man without reasons given for it, it were unreasonable ... The Commons of England was never a Court of Judicature; I would know how they came to be so.

It was the liberty, freedom, and laws of the subject that ever I took – defended myself with arms. I never took up arms against the people, but for the laws ...For the charge, I value it not a rush. It is the liberty of the people of England that I stand for. For me to acknowledge a new Court that I never heard of before, I that am your King, that should be an example to all the people of England, for to uphold justice, to maintain the old laws, indeed I do not know how to do it.

This many-a-day all things have been taken away from me, but that that I call more dear to me than my life, which is my conscience, and my honour: and if I had a respect to my life more than the peace of the Kingdom, and the liberty of the subject, certainly I should have made a particular defence for my self; for by that at leastwise I might have delayed an ugly sentence, which I believe will pass upon me ... Now, sir, I conceive that an hasty sentence once passed, may sooner be repented of than recalled: and truly, the self-same desire that I have for the peace of the Kingdom, and the liberty of the subject, more than

my own particular ends, makes me now at least desire, before sentence be given, that I may be heard ... before the Lords and Commons ... If I cannot get this liberty, I do protest, that these fair shows of liberty and peace are pure shows and that you will not hear your King.                                                   

High Court of Justice President Bradshaw’s Statement to Charles at the Conclusion of the Trial

'there is a contract and a bargain made between the King and his people, and your oath is taken: and certainly, Sir, the bond is reciprocal; for as you are the liege lord, so they liege subjects ... This we know now, the one tie, the one bond, is the bond of protection that is due from the sovereign; the other is the bond of subjection that is due from the subject. Sir, if this bond be once broken, farewell sovereignty! ... These things may not be denied,

Sir ... Whether you have been, as by your office you ought to be, a protector of England, or the destroyer of England, let all England judge, or all the world, that hath look'd upon it ... You disavow us as a Court; and therefore for you to address yourself to us, not acknowledging as a Court to judge of what you say, it is not to be permitted. And truth is, all along, from the first time you were pleased to disavow disown us, the Court needed not to have heard you one word.”  The Clerk to the Court concluded with the sentence 'this Court doth adjudge that he the said Charles Stuart, as a Tyrant, Traitor, Murderer

and Public Enemy to the good people of this Nation, shall be put to death, by the severing his head from his body'. Bradshaw refused to allow the King to speak in Court after sentence (as a prisoner condemned was already dead in law), and the King was led away still protesting.  I am not suffered to speak; expect what justice other people will have.”

Sentence of the High Court of Justice upon Charles I

WHEREAS the Commons of England assembled in Parliament, have by their late Act entitled ‘An Act of the Commons of England, assembled in Parliament, for erecting an High Court of Justice for the trying and judging of Charles Stuart, King of England,’ authorised and constituted us an High Court of Justice for the trying and judging of the said Charles Stuart for the crimes and treasons in the said Act mentioned; by virtue whereof the said Charles Stuart hath been three several times convented before this High Court, where the first day, being Saturday, the 20th of January, instant, in pursuance of the said Act, a charge of high treason and other high crimes was, in the behalf of the people of England, exhibited against him, and read openly unto him, wherein he was charged, that he, the said Charles Stuart, being admitted King of England, and therein trusted with a limited power to govern by, and according to the law of the land, and not otherwise, and by his trust, oath, and office, being obliged to use the power committed to him for the good and benefit of the people, and for the preservation of their rights and liberties; yet, nevertheless, out of a wicked design to erect and uphold in himself an unlimited and tyrannical power to rule according to his will, and to overthrow the rights and liberties of the people, and to take away and make void the foundations thereof and of all redress and remedy of misgovernment, which by the fundamental constitutions of this kingdom were reserved on the people’s behalf in the right and power of frequent and successive Parliaments, or national meetings in Council; he, the said Charles Stuart, for accomplishment of such his designs, and for the protecting of himself and his adherents in his and their wicked practices, to the same end hath traitorously and maliciously levied war against the present Parliament and people therein represented, as with the circumstances of time and place is in the said charge more particularly set forth; and that he hath thereby caused and procured many thousands of the free people of this nation to be slain; and by divisions, parties, and insurrections within this land, by invasions from foreign parts, endeavoured and procured by him, and by many other evil ways and means, he, the said Charles Stuart, hath not only maintained and carried on the said war both by sea and land, but also hath renewed, or caused to be renewed, the said war against the Parliament and good people of this nation in this present year 1648, in several counties and places in this kingdom in the charge specified; and that he hath for that purpose given his commission to his son, the Prince, and others, whereby, besides multitudes of other persons, many such as were by the Parliament entrusted and employed for the safety of this nation, being by him or his agents corrupted, to the betraying of their trust, and revolting from the Parliament, have had entertainment and commission for the continuing and renewing of the war and hostility against the said Parliament and people: and that by the said cruel and unnatural war so levied, continued and renewed, much innocent blood of the free people of this nation hath been spilt, many families undone, the public treasure wasted, trade obstructed and miserably decayed, vast expense and damage to the nation incurred, and many parts of the land spoiled, some of them even to desolation; and that he still continues his commission to his said son, and other rebels and revolters, both English and foreigners, and to the Earl of Ormond, and to the Irish rebels and revolters associated with him, from whom further invasions of this land are threatened by his procurement and on his behalf; and that all the said wicked designs, wars, and evil practices of him, the said Charles Stuart, were still carried on for the advancement and upholding of the personal interest of will, power, and pretended prerogative to himself and his family, against the public interest, common right, liberty, justice, and peace of the people of this nation: and that he thereby hath been and is the occasioner, author, and continuer of the said unnatural, cruel, and bloody wars, and therein guilty of all the treasons, murders, rapines, burnings, spoils, desolations, damage, and mischief to this nation, acted and committed in the said wars, or occasioned thereby; whereupon the proceedings and judgment of this Court were prayed against him, as a tyrant, traitor, and murderer, and public enemy to the Commonwealth, as by the said charge more fully appeareth. To which charge, being read unto him as aforesaid, he, the said Charles Stuart, was required to give his answer, but he refused so to do; and upon Monday, the 22nd day of January instant, being again brought before this Court, and there required to answer directly to the said charge, he still refused so to do; whereupon his default and contumacy was entered; and the next day, being the third time brought before the Court, judgment was then prayed against him on the behalf of the people of England for his contumacy, and for the matters contained against him in the said charge, as taking the same for confessed, in regard of his refusing to answer thereto. Yet notwithstanding this Court (not willing to take advantage of his contempt) did once more require him to answer to the said charge; but he again refused so to do; upon which his several defaults, this Court might justly have proceeded to judgment against him, both for his contumacy and the matters of the charge, taking the same for confessed as aforesaid.

Yet nevertheless this Court, for its own clearer information and further satisfaction, have thought fit to examine witnesses upon oath, and take notice of other evidences, touching the matters contained in the said charge, which accordingly they have done.

Now, therefore, upon serious and mature deliberation of the premises, and consideration had of the notoriety of the matters of fact charged upon him as aforesaid, this Court is in judgment and conscience satisfied that he, the said Charles Stuart, is guilty of levying war against the said Parliament and people, and maintaining and continuing the same; for which in the said charge he stands accused, and by the general course of his government, counsels, and practices, before and since this Parliament began (which have been and are notorious and public, and the effects whereof remain abundantly upon record) this Court is fully satisfied in their judgments and consciences, that he has been and is guilty of the wicked designs and endeavours in the said charge set forth; and that the said war hath been levied, maintained, and continued by him as aforesaid, in prosecution, and for accomplishment of the said designs; and that he hath been and is the occasioner, author, and continuer of the said unnatural, cruel, and bloody wars, and therein guilty of high treason, and of the murders, rapines, burnings, spoils, desolations, damage, and mischief to this nation acted and committed in the said war, and occasioned thereby. For all which treasons and crimes this Court doth adjudge that he, the said Charles Stuart, as a tyrant, traitor, murderer, and public enemy to the good people of this nation, shall be put to death by the severing of his head from his body.                                                                     (1648/9, January 27. Rushworth, viii. 1420. Gardiner, 377-380.)

The Death Warrant of Charles I

At the High Court of Justice for the trying and judging of Charles Stuart, King of England, Jan. 29, Anno Domini 1648.

WHEREAS Charles Stuart, King of England, is, and standeth convicted, attainted, and condemned of high treason, and other high crimes; and sentence upon Saturday last was pronounced against him by this Court, to be put to death by the severing of his head from his body; of which sentence, execution vet remaineth to be done: these are therefore to will and require you to see the said sentence executed in the open street before Whitehall, upon the morrow, being the thirtieth day of this instant month of January, between the hours of ten in the morning and five in the afternoon of the same day, with full effect. And for so doing this shall be your sufficient warrant. And these are to require all officers, soldiers, and others, the good people of this nation of England, to be assisting unto you in this service.

To Col. Francis Hacker, Col. Huncks, and Lieut-Col. Phayre, and to every of them.

Given under our hands and seals.
[ * * * 59 names in all.]                                                                                                   (1648/9, January 29. Rushworth, viii. 1426. Gardiner, 380.)        

House of Lords Record Office : The Death Warrant of King Charles I               

At the high Co[ur]t of Justice for the tryinge and judginge of Charles
Steuart Kinge of England January xxixth Anno D[omi]ni 1648.

Whereas Charles Steuart Kinge of England is and standeth convicted attaynted and condemned of High Treason and other high Crymes, And sentence uppon Saturday last was pronounced against him by this Co[ur]t to be putt to death by the severinge of his head from his body Of w[hi]ch sentence execuc[i]on yet remayneth to be done, These are therefore to will and require you to see the said sentence executed In the open Streete before Whitehall uppon the morrowe being the Thirtieth day of this instante moneth of January betweene the houres of Tenn in the morninge and Five in the afternoone of the same day w[i]th full effect And for soe doing this shall be yo[u]r sufficient warrant And these are to require All Officers and Souldiers and other the good people of this Nation of England to be assistinge unto you in this service Given under o[ur] hands and Seales

The Execution of King Charles from the National Portrait Gallery

Last Words:   

On 20 January, 1649 Charles was charged with high treason 'against the realm of England'. Charles refused to plead, saying that he did not recognise the legality of the High Court (it had been established by a Commons purged of dissent, and without the House of Lords - nor had the Commons ever acted as a judicature).

The King was sentenced to death on 27 January. Three days later, January 30, 1649 Charles was beheaded on a scaffold outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall, London.

On the scaffold, he repeated his case: 'I must tell you that the liberty and freedom [of the people] 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 clean different things. 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 ... that I am the martyr of the people.'  His final words were 'I go from a corruptible to an incorruptible Crown, where no disturbance can be.'

Act Abolishing the Office of King

WHEREAS Charles Stuart, late King of England, Ireland, and the territories and dominions thereunto belonging, hath by authority derived from Parliament been and is hereby declared to be justly condemned, adjudged to die, and put to death, for many treasons, murders, and other heinous offences committed by him, by which judgment he stood, and is hereby declared to be, attainted of high treason, whereby his issue and posterity, and all others pretending title under him, are become incapable of the said Crown, or of being King or Queen of the said kingdom or dominions, or either or any of them; be it therefore enacted and ordained, and it is enacted, ordained, and declared by this present Parliament, and by authority thereof, that all the people of England and Ireland, and the dominions and territories thereunto belonging, of what degree or condition soever, are discharged of all fealty, homage, and allegiance which is or shall be pretended to be due unto any of the issue and posterity of the said late King, or any claiming under him; and that Charles Stuart, eldest son, and James, called Duke of York, second son, and all other the issue and posterity of him the said late King, and all and every person and persons pretending title from, by, or under him, are and be disabled to hold or enjoy the said Crown of England and Ireland, and other the dominions thereunto belonging, or any of them; or to have the name, title, style, or dignity of King or Queen of England and Ireland, Prince of Wales, or any of them; or to have and enjoy the power and dominion of the said kingdom and dominions, or any of them, or the honours, manors, lands, tenements, possessions, and hereditaments belonging or appertaining to the said Crown of England and Ireland, and other the dominions aforesaid, or to any of them; or to the Principality of Wales, Duchy of Lancaster or Cornwall, or any or either of them, any law, statute, ordinance, usage, or custom to the contrary hereof in any wise notwithstanding.

II. And whereas it is and hath been found by experience, that the office of a King in this nation and Ireland, and to have the power thereof in any single person, is unnecessary, burdensome, and dangerous to the liberty, safety, and public interest of the people, and that for the most part, use hath been made of the regal power and prerogative to oppress and impoverish and enslave the subject; and that usually and naturally any one person in such power makes it his interest to encroach upon the just freedom and liberty of the people, and to promote the setting up of their own will and power above the laws, that so they might enslave these kingdoms to their own lust; be it therefore enacted and ordained by this present Parliament, and by authority of the same, that the office of a King in this nation shall not henceforth reside in or be exercised by any one single person; and that no one person whatsoever shall or may have, or hold the office, style, dignity, power, or authority of King of the said kingdoms and dominions, or any of them, or of the Prince of Wales, any law, statute, usage, or custom to the contrary thereof in any wise notwithstanding.

III. And it is hereby enacted, that if any person or persons shall endeavour to attempt by force of arms or otherwise, or be aiding, assisting, comforting, or abetting unto any person or persons that shall by any ways or means whatsoever endeavour or attempt the reviving or setting up again of any pretended right of the said Charles, eldest son to the said late King, James called Duke of York, or of any other the issue and posterity of the said late King, or of any person or persons claiming under him or them, to the said regal office, style, dignity, or authority, or to be Prince of Wales; or the promoting of any one person whatsoever to the name, style, dignity, power, prerogative, or authority of King of England and Ireland, and dominions aforesaid, or any of them; that then every such offence shall be deemed and adjudged high treason, and the offenders therein, their counsellors, procurers, aiders and abettors, being convicted of the said offence, or any of them, shall be deemed and adjudged traitors against the Parliament and people of England, and shall suffer, lose, and forfeit, and have such like and the same pains, forfeitures, judgments, and execution as is used in case of high treason.

IV. And whereas by the abolition of the kingly office provided for in this Act, a most happy way is made for this nation (if God see it good) to return to its just and ancient right, of being governed by its own Representatives or national meetings in council, from time to time chosen and entrusted for that purpose by the people, it is therefore resolved and declared by the Commons assembled in Parliament, that they will put a period to the sitting of this present Parliament, and dissolve the same so soon, as may possibly stand with the safety of the people that hath betrusted them, and with what is absolutely necessary for the preserving and upholding the Government now settled in the way of a Commonwealth; and that they will carefully provide for the certain choosing, meeting, and sitting of the next and future Representatives, with such other circumstances of freedom in choice and equality in distribution of members to be elected thereunto, as shall most conduce to the lasting freedom and good of this Commonwealth.

V. And it is hereby further enacted and declared, notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, no person or persons of what condition and quality soever, within the commonwealth of England and Ireland, dominion of Wales, the islands of Guernsey and Jersey, and town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, shall be discharged from the obedience and subjection which he and they owe to the Government of this nation, as it is now declared, but all and every of them shall in all things render and perform the same, as of right is due unto the supreme authority hereby declared to reside in this and the successive Representatives of the people of this nation, and in them only.                                 (1648/9, March 17. Scobell, ii. 7. Gardiner 384-387.)                    

 Act Abolishing the House of Lords

THE Commons of England assembled in Parliament, finding by too long experience that the House of Lords is useless and dangerous to the people of England to be continued, have thought fit to ordain and enact, and be it ordained and enacted by this present Parliament, and by the authority of the same, that from henceforth the House of Lords in Parliament shall be and is hereby wholly abolished and taken away; and that the Lords shall not from henceforth meet or sit in the said House called the Lords’ House, or in any other house or place whatsoever, as a House of Lords; nor shall sit, vote, advise, adjudge, or determine of any matter or thing whatsoever, as a House of Lords in Parliament: nevertheless it is hereby declared, that neither such Lords as have demeaned themselves with honour, courage, and fidelity to the Commonwealth, nor their posterities who shall continue so, shall be excluded from the public councils of the nation, but shall be admitted thereunto, and have their free vote in Parliament, if they shall be thereunto elected, as other persons of interest elected and qualified thereunto ought to have.

II. And be it further ordained and enacted by the authority aforesaid, that no Peer of this land, not being elected, qualified and sitting in Parliament as aforesaid, shall claim, have, or make use of any privilege of Parliament, either in relation to his person, quality, or estate, any law, usage, or custom to the contrary notwithstanding.                          (1648/9, March 19. Scobell ii. 8. Gardiner 387, 388)                       

Act Declaring England to be a Commonwealth

BE it declared and enacted by this present Parliament, and by the authority of the same, that the people of England, and of all the dominions and territories thereunto belonging, are and shall be, and are hereby constituted, made, established, and confirmed, to be a Commonwealth and Free State, and shall from henceforth be governed as a Commonwealth and Free State by the supreme authority of this nation, the representatives of the people in Parliament, and by such as they shall appoint and constitute as officers and ministers under them for the good of the people, and that without any King or House of Lords.   (1649, May 19. Scobell ii. 30. Gardiner 388)                                 

The Regicides

In August 1660, following the Restoration of King Charles II, the Act of Indemnity and Oblivion was passed as a gesture of reconciliation to reunite the kingdom. A free pardon was granted to everyone who had supported the Commonwealth and Protectorate, but exceptions were made for those who had directly participated in the trial and execution of King Charles I in 1649. A special court was appointed in October 1660 and the Regicides that were in custody were brought to trial. Ten were condemned to death and publicly hanged, drawn and quartered at Charing Cross or Tyburn, London, in October 1660: Thomas Harrison, John Jones, Adrian Scrope, John Carew, Thomas Scot, and Gregory Clement, who had signed the King's death warrant; the preacher Hugh Peter; Francis Hacker and Daniel Axtell, who commanded the guards at the King's trial and execution; and John Cook, the lawyer who had directed the prosecution. A further nineteen were imprisoned for life.... all the Regicides who had died before the Restoration were posthumously attainted for high treason and their property was confiscated. Twenty Regicides fled to Europe or to America. George Downing (1623-84), formerly Cromwell's director of military intelligence, tracked down and arrested three of them: John Barkstead, John Okey and Miles Corbet, who were extradited from the Netherlands and executed in April 1662. John Lisle was murdered by a royalist at Lausanne in Switzerland in 1664. The last survivor of the regicides was probably Edmund Ludlow, who died at Vevey, Switzerland, in 1692.

In January 1661, the corpses of Oliver Cromwell, Henry Ireton and John Bradshaw were exhumed and hanged in their shrouds at Tyburn before their skulls were impaled at Westminster Hall.

The identity of the executioner who beheaded the King was never discovered.  (Note: this website also contains a listing of all 59 Regicides with links to biographies and portraits)

John Bradshaw

Oliver Cromwell

Henry Ireton

Additional Reading:

Charles Carlton, Charles I, the personal monarch. London; Routledge, 1995.

Richard Cust. Charles I: a political life. New York; Longman/Pearson, 2005.

Issac Disraeli, Commentaries on the life and reign of Charles the First, King of England. London; Colburn 1828-31.

Peter Donald, An uncounselled king: Charles I and the Scottish troubles, 1637-1641. Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Ian Gentles, The English Revolution and the wars in the three kingdoms, 1638-1652. New York; Pearson/Longman, 2007.

Caroline Hibbard. Charles I and the popish plot. Chapel Hill; University of North Carolina Press, 1983.

Clive Holmes. Why was Charles I executed? New York; Hambeldon, 2006.

D. L. Keir, The Constitutional History of Modern Britain (6th ed.) 1960.

David Lagomarsino and Charles T. Wood eds. The Trial of Charles I; a documentary history. Hanover N.H.; Dartmouth College, 1989.

James F. Larkin ed. Royal proclamations of King Charles I, 1625-1646. Oxford; Oxford University Press, 1983.

John Macleod, Dynasty: the Stuarts, 1560-1807. London; Hodder & Stoughton, 1999.

J. de Morgan, "The Most Notable Trial in Modern History" in H W Fuller (ed) The Green Bag, vol xi, 1899, Boston.

J.G. Muddiman ed. Trial of King Charles the First. Birmingham AL; Leslie B. Adams, 1990.

Brian Quintrell. Charles I, 1625-1640. London; Longman, 1993.

Trevor Royle, The British Civil War: the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, 1638-1660. New York; Palgrave MacMillan, 2004.

Kevin Sharpe. The personal rule of Charles I. New Haven; Yale University Press, 1992.

Louis J. SiricoJr. “The Trial of Charles I: A Sesquitricentennial Reflection” 16 Constitutional Commentary 51 (1999)

C. V. Wedgewood, The Trial of Charles I, Penguin, 1964.

G.M. Young. Charles I and Cromwell; an essay. London; Hart-Davis, 1950.

Famous Trials Website