On this day in 1649, having bid a heartbreaking goodbye to his young children, Charles I was executed for treason outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall …
It was a freezing cold day, so he put on an extra shirt, that no-one might see him shiver, and think him scared (“the season is so sharp as probably may make me shake, which some observers may imagine proceeds from fear [and] I would have no such imputation”). Eventually, after what must have been a harrowing wait, at 2pm, he delivered an almost inaudible address to the crowd, and at the end proclaimed “I go from a corruptible to an incorruptible crown, where no disturbance can be, no disturbance in the world”. He then made a silent prayer, laid his head upon the block, and had it stricken from his body. Whereupon, according to an eye-witness account by one Philip Henry, “there was such a Grone by the Thousands there present, as I never heard before & desire I may never hear again”. The usually ubiquitous John Evelyn was pointedly not among those who bore witness to the event, writing in his diary: “The Villanie of the Rebells proceeding now so far as to Trie, Condemne, & Murder our excellent King … struck me with such horror that I kept the day of his Martyrdom a fast, & would not be present, at that execrable wickednesse … ”.
The site of the execution is visited on our “St Paul’s to Westminster Abbey” standard walk, and on our “Tudor and Stuart London” and “Rebellious London” themed specials.
Further details of all our walks are available in the “Our Guided Walks” section of the web-site.