KILLERS OF THE KING by Charles Spencer
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The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I
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C.V. Wedgwood’s masterwork told this story in three volumes, but Britain’s Charles I (1600-1649) loses his head on Page 55 of this fascinating, one-volume account in which British historian Spencer (Prince Rupert: The Last Cavalier, 2008, etc.) describes what happened afterward.

Stubborn and authoritarian, Charles provoked a rebellion that ended in his defeat, capture, trial and execution. Nearly 60 of the 83 “commissioners” who conducted Charles’ trial signed his death warrant. Careful to observe bureaucratic niceties, they carefully preserved the warrant and all records, a move that proved to be a bonanza for historians as well as Royalists on their return 10 years later. Before assuming his father’s throne in 1660 (following Oliver Cromwell’s death two years earlier), Charles II issued his famous Declaration of Breda, proclaiming general forgiveness for those who declared their loyalty “excepting only such persons as shall hereafter be excepted by Parliament”—a big loophole. Readers will initially be sympathetic to Royalists who suffered under the republic, which treated Charles I badly, executing him after a distinctly Stalin-esque show trial. However, they will reverse their sympathies as Charles II and a new Parliament, dominated by Royalists, wreaked vengeance. Spencer recounts the mostly dismal fates of the surviving regicides. Thirteen were tried (in equally Stalin-esque settings) and executed, mostly by drawing and quartering, a gruesome, protracted procedure. Nineteen received life imprisonment under awful conditions, and few of those survived. Fifteen fled to Europe and three to America where several were murdered by Royalists, three kidnapped and returned for execution, and the rest passed anxious lives, the last dying in 1689.

A gripping account of the aftermath of Britain’s revolution, during which both sides fought for justice and Christianity and behaved despicably.

Pub Date: Jan. 20th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1620409121
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2014


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