Sunday 26th January 2020 - London
We were delighted to once again be invited, alongside the other Royalist regiments of English Civil War Society’s, to take part in the annual Whitehall parade in central London to commemorate the execution of King Charles I. Our march takes place every year on the last Sunday of January as we march down the Mall to Horseguards. There, we took part in a short commemoration service and lay a wreath outside the Banqueting House to mark the spot where Charles was executed.
Regardless of your stance on if the execution of the king was the right or wrong thing to do, Charles’ death sent shock waves around Europe. The Stuarts, like many of their European counterparts and the citizens of their countries, had a strong belief in the Divine Right of Kings which was the belief that their position on the throne was ordained by God and opposition to and attacks of the monarchy were in line to attacks on religion and the Church. According to the witness account of 17 year old Philip Henry, at the moment of execution ‘there was such a groan by the thousands then present as I never heard before and desire I may never hear again’. For a society who accepted capital punishment, the execution of a monarch did not sit easily with the people.
Charles approached his execution with dignity (at least according to the sources that I have come across). He spent the morning praying with Bishop Juxton and whilst dressing on a very cold morning, requested an additional shirt so that he would not shiver and the crowd that had gathered would think that he was afraid. It is said that Brandon, the official executioner could not be found and the men who eventually had the task of beheading the king were masked heavily to conceal their identity.
Charles’s last words in the moments before his death were ‘I go from a corruptible to an incorruptible crown; where no disturbance can be, no disturbance in the world’.
It really is an honour to have the opportunity to commemorate Charles’s execution in this way at the spot in which the king was killed. I’ve often had long debates about if, in the context of the 1640s and the civil war, it was reasonable to execute the king. I have fallen down more on the side of Parliament looking for a scapegoat and the military leaders trying to remove a threat to their power but there is certainly some weight to the argument that without the execution, the civil war could never have come to a definitive end.
If you’ve got any thoughts on this, please do let us know; I love to hear other people’s views!
Learn more about the execution of the king and London Banqueting House from the Historic Royal Palaces: https://www.hrp.org.uk/banqueting-house/history-and-stories/the-execution-of-charles-i/#gs.wxwiup