This day has two interesting anniversaries. One of them in 1649 and one of them in 1661. The two anniversaries are related too.
In 1649, on this day, Charles I was beheaded at Whitehall Palace in London, on the orders of the new protectorate, led by Oliver Cromwell.
He had been King for twenty-four years, most of that time spent in arguments and battles with his parliament.
Charles was the second son of James VI/I, so was not originally intended for the throne, until his elder brother Henry, died. He believed in the divine right of kings, the right to order his parliament to do as he wished, not what they wanted or thought was best for the country.
The parliament obviously disagreed and this caused a civil war throughout the country, from around 1642. King Charles was handed over to the parliamentarians in 1647 and he was imprisoned in Carisbrooke Castle until his trial in January 1649.
Charles did not recognise the authority of the court who tried him, believing still in the divine rights of his role as King. He refused to interact with them at all and was eventually found guilty of high treason.
The sentence for treason was death and his execution was planned for the 30th January.
Soon after noon on that day, he was taken to the scaffold that had been erected and he lay his head on the block. His head was removed with one stroke of the axe.
The following day, his head was sewn back onto his body and he was placed in a lead coffin. This was then removed to Windsor where he was interred in the same vault as Henry VIII and Queen Jane.
The anniversary in 1661 involves the leader of the parliamentarians who had executed Charles twelve years earlier, Oliver Cromwell.
Cromwell died two years previously, passing the mantle of protector on to his son, Richard. His son was not a popular man, and was a failure in this role. Charles eldest son, Charles was invited back to the throne and became King Charles II.
On the anniversary of his father’s execution in 1661, King Charles II ordered a posthumous execution of Cromwell.
The body of Cromwell was taken from it’s original burial place in Westminster Abbey, to the traditional execution place at Tyburn.
There it was hung in chains and his head removed. The head was put on a pole and displayed, it is said, outside Westminster Hall until 1685 (I dread to think what condition the head would have been in after that long!!).
His body was thrown into a pit at Tyburn, which for centuries had been the place for traitors to be disposed of. The head is allegedly now buried in a chapel in a Cambridge college.
And thus ended the traitor, Oliver Cromwell. Or the hero, depending how you look at him……….