Updated on 16 March 2021
When Charles I was executed by parliament in 1649 the Divine Right of Kings ended.
With his royalist forces defeated, In 1646, Charles I surrendered to the Scots, who handed him over to Parliament. He escaped to the Isle of Wight in 1647 and encouraged discontented Scots to invade for what would be the second war of the English Civil War Period.
Heads Of The Proposals
The army drew up the ‘Heads of the Proposals’, a list of suggestions for a settlement with Charles I in order to end the period of civil war.
However, in May 1648, Charles I ignored the offer of a settlement with Parliament and made a deal with the discontented Scots to start the second war. Oliver Cromwell then defeated Charles I a second time, at the Battle of Preston in August 1648.
Convinced that there would never be peace while the king lived, Parliament put him on trial for treason. Charles I was condemned as a “tyrant, traitor, murderer and public enemy to the Commonwealth of England”.
On 27 January 1649, the parliamentarian High Court of Justice declared Charles I guilty of attempting to “Uphold in himself an unlimited and tyrannical power to rule according to his will, and to overthrow the rights and liberties of the people”.
Three days later, on 30 January 1649, Charles I was brought to the Palace of Whitehall where an execution scaffold had been purpose-built. The King, with his hair now bound in a white nightcap, took off his cloak and laid down on the scaffold. He told the executioner that he would say a short prayer, and then give a signal that he was ready.
After a little pause, the King stretched out his hand, and the axe fell, the executioner severing his head in one clean blow.
Many watching were aghast, with one witness commenting “there was such a groan by the thousands then present as I never heard before and desire I may never hear again”.
Such was the shock that England could kill its own king, it sent shivers throughout the years of the Commonwealth of England and, in part paved the way for the Restoration 11 years later.
Image from fineartamerica.com/