Tag Archives: Charles I

Theobalds House

RuinsWilliam Cecil.JPG

Water feature.JPG

A “prodigy-house” called  Theobalds House was built at the heart of a Hertfordshire park-estate in 1564-85, by William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, one of Elizabeth I’s most trusted advisers (the queen is known to have visited him here on a number of occasions).  After William’s death in 1598, it passed to his son Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury; in 1607, to James I; and after James’s death here in 1625, to his son Charles I.   It was substantially demolished in 1650, during the Commonwealth that came into being after Charles’s  execution in 1649.  Some  romantic ruins remain.

A new house called The Cedars was built, a little to the north-west of Theobalds House, in 1762, by the then owner, George Prescott (the estate in the meantime having  had passed through the hands of the Dukes of Albemarle, who were granted it  after the Restoration of the Monarchy, and the Earls of Portland).  The house later passed through the Prescott family, and thence, in 1820, to the Meuxes  (*).  When Hadworth Meux died in 1929, it  became in turn a hotel, a school, and adult education centre, and a conference centre, and as of 2015 is once more a hotel.

(*) The Meuxes, of brewery fame, made extensive alterations and added extensions to the house during the nineteenth century.  In 1888, Lady Meux, a banjo-playing former barmaid, re-erected at its  entrance Christopher Wren’s Temple Bar, a gate-house that had  formerly stood between Fleet Street in the  City of London and the Strand in Westminster (until it had to be taken down to allow for the free flow of traffic).  Temple Bar was moved again in 2004, this time  back to the City of London, to Paternoster Square, just north-west of St Paul’s Cathedral.

 

 

The execution of Charles I

The execution of Charles I

On this day in 1649, 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 given 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 … ”.

 

Westminster Hall

1 - Exterior of Westminster Hall

2 - Interior of Westminster Hall.JPG

On this day in 1265, Simon de Montfort convened what is widely regarded as England’s first representative Parliament at Westminster Hall (before 1265, Parliament, or its precursor, had met in the Chapter House of Westminster Abbey, and after 1548, it met in the then-secularised Royal Chapel of St Stephen in the Palace of Westminster).

3 - Trial of Charles I in Westminster Hall (1649)

Also, on this day in 1649, the trial for treason of Charles I began here.

Westminster Hall was originally built as a royal residence cum banqueting house by William II, Rufus,  in 1097-99; and rebuilt, with a spectacular hammerbeam roof, by Hugh Herland and Henry Yevele, for Richard II, in 1394-1401.  It once formed part of the Old Palace of Westminster, work on which is believed to have begun, under Cnut, as long ago as 1016.  Together  with the adjacent Jewel Tower, it is essentially the only part of the old palace to have survived the terrible fires of 1512 and 1834 (the present, new palace was built, in the Victorian Gothic style, between 1837-70).  It was itself damaged by fire during the Blitz of the Second World War, and has since been further damaged by Death Watch Beetle, the infestation thought to have taken hold in  timbers that had become soaked during the war-time fire-fighting.

 

The  attempted arrest of the “five members” (John Rushworth, 1642)

A nineteenth-century painting in the Houses of Parliament of the attempted arrest of the five members (Charles West Cope)

On this day in 1642, King Charles I and his henchmen entered the Houses of Parliament and attempted to arrest five Members of Parliament, namely, John Hampden (c.1595–1643) (*), Arthur Haselrig (1601–1661), Denzil Holles (1599–1680), John Pym (1584–1643) and William Strode (1598–1645).  It is said that when the King demanded to be told the whereabouts  of the MPs, the Speaker of the House, William Lenthall, retorted:

“May it please your Majesty, I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as the House is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am here”.

The event was essentially the last in a series that eventually led to the Civil War between on the one hand the Royalists under Charles, and on the other the Parliamentarians under Cromwell (*).

It is ceremonially re-enacted each year during the State Opening of Parliament, when the Crown’s  representative, “Black Rod”, is despatched from the Lords to the Commons, there to have the doors slammed shut in his face.

A seventeenth-century portrait of John Hampden (Robert Walker)

(*) Hampden was Cromwell’s cousin, and one of his ablest military commanders during the early part of the war.  He died  of wounds sustained at the Battle of Chalgrove Field  in 1643.

“There is Cooke’s head set up for a traitor” (Samuel Pepys, 1660)

Cook - Copy

Harrison - Copy

On this day in 1660, Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary:

“George Vines carried me up to the top of his  turret, where there is Cooke’s head set up for a traitor, and Harrison’s set up on the other side of Westminster Hall.  Here I could see them plainly, and also a very fair prospect about London”.

John Cook(e) was the chief prosecutor at Charles I’s trial at the end of the Civil War, and Thomas Harrison one of the  signatories  to his death warrant,  both hunted down and executed by Charles II after the Restoration of the Monarchy.

 

“I saw the limbs of some of our new traitors set upon Aldersgate” (Samuel Pepys, 1660)

The king's executioner

On this day in 1660, Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary:

“This afternoon, going through London, and calling at Crowe’s, the upholsterers, in Saint Bartholomew’s, I saw the limbs of some of our traitors set upon Aldersgate, which was a sad sight to see; and a bloody week this and the last have been, there being ten hanged, drawn and quartered”.

A number of the signatories to the death warrant of Charles I at the end of the Civil War in 1649 were hunted down and executed by Charles II after the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660.

 

“This morning Mr Carew was hanged and quartered” (Samuel Pepys, 1660)

On this day in 1660, Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary:

“This morning Mr Carew was hanged and quartered at Charing Cross, but his quarters, by a great favour, are not to be hanged up”.

John Carew

John Carew was   one of a number of the signatories to the death warrant of Charles I at the end of the Civil War in 1649 to be  hunted down and executed by Charles II after the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660.