I’ll Show You!

January 4 was a rather auspicious day for King Charles I of England. In 1642, the king ordered Parliament to hand over six members accused of treason—an act that would add fuel to the smoldering civil war fire. And on that same day, seven years later, Parliament itself would vote to put Charles on trial, which would eventually cost him his life.

Charles had a rocky reign, no doubt about it, and the 1640’s were as rocky as they got, with rebellions popping up left and right, invasions threatening, and Parliament asserting itself in a way the king was not ok with. When he heard a rumor that Parliament intended to impeach his Catholic queen, Charles struck back and ordered the arrest of six MPs who were suspected of being involved in a previous Scottish uprising. Parliament refused to hand them over, so Charles decided to go and arrest them himself. Word of his intentions got out early enough for the men to slip away by the time Charles arrived to arrest them on January 4. Charles was humiliated and shamed—aside from this one time, no English sovereign has ever entered the House of Commons by force. The people revolted, Parliament seized London, and Charles was forced to leave the capital and head north to raise an army. Before the year was out, the Civil War was raging.

As is usually the case, things got really ugly, and certain factions in Parliament were disturbed by the increasing radicalism of the New Model Army. Many wanted to restore the king to power but limit his authority. The New Model Army would have none of that, and in 1648 it seized power and took the king into custody to await trial for treason.

In order to prevent the king from being reinstated, high-ranking members of the New Model Army purged Parliament of more than 200 members, 45 of whom were thrown into prison. The resulting members became known as the Rump Parliament. On January 4, 1649 the Rump Parliament passed an ordinance to set up a High Court of Justice to try the king for high treason. The Lords rejected it, and it did not receive the Royal Assent (naturally), which prompted some (most vocally the king) to call the whole trial into question. Nonetheless, it went ahead, and Charles was, of course, found guilty, with fifty-nine judges signing the death warrant. He went to the scaffold on January 30.



One thought on “I’ll Show You!

  1. It is believed, although not yet confirmed, that my ancestor was John Jones of Wales, one of the regicides. But as I have said this is yet to be confirmed. This was an interesting read, really enjoyed it.

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