Through Great Britain and Ireland With Cromwell - H. E. Marshall

The King's Last Journey

Having the King once more in their power, the army could now act. The morning after Charles had been carried to Hurst Castle, Fairfax and his men marched into London, taking possession of the city. Still, the Parliament was not to be frightened into doing what the army wanted them to do.

Then one morning at seven o'clock the heavy tramp of soldiers was heard around the House of Parliament. Armed men filled the courts, the lobby, and the stairs. At the door stood Colonel Pride with a paper in his hand. Upon this paper were the names of all those members who would not vote and act as the army wished. As soon as one of these appeared, he was turned back or seized and shut up in a room called the "Queen's Room." "By whose authority, by whose orders, is this done?" they asked.

"By the power of the sword," was the reply.

Next day Colonel Pride was again at his post. Member after member was turned back or taken prisoner, and by night-fall there were but fifty or sixty members left. Among them was General Cromwell, member for Cambridge, but newly returned from Scotland.

This is called "Pride's Purge," he having purged away all those who would not, according to his idea, do right. And the Parliament, being but now a remnant of a Parliament, was called "The Rump."

The army was master of the kingdom. It had become a tyrant, and its tyranny was as great as ever that of Charles had been. As the power of the army had grown, Cromwell's power had grown with it. But now it had become too strong even for him. It forced him to something which he had at first never meant to do. It forced him to bring the King to trial and to death.

But when once Cromwell became sure that the King must die, when he began to believe that in no other way would peace come to the country, nothing made him hesitate. So, from the lonely, dreary castle by the sea, the King was brought to Windsor. He came through the woodland of the New Forest to the royal town of Winchester, and on, by the chalky downs of Surrey, to Bagshot Heath, and at last to Windsor.

From there, a few days later, he was brought to London, to meet his stern judges. They accused him of being a tyrant, a traitor, a murderer, and a public enemy. They condemned him to die.

Charles had not been a good king. He had thought more of his own will than of the happiness of his people. But those were very hard times in which to rule. And now he met his death bravely and like a gentleman.

"There is but one stage more," said the bishop who was allowed to be with him on the scaffold. "It is very short, and in an instant will lead you a most long way, from earth to heaven, where you shall find great joy and comfort."

"I go," replied the King, "from a corruptible to an incorruptible crown, where can be no trouble, none at all."

An so he passed on his last journey.

Charles I of England


Now that the poor King, who had caused so much sorrow and suffering, and who himself had had such a sad life, lay dead, his friends begged to be allowed to bury him. This they were permitted to do. It was winter time, and as they reverently carried the coffin, covered with black velvet, through the streets, the snow fell fast. And so, shrouded in white, the "White King," as he was often called, was laid to rest in St. George's Chapel at Windsor, "without any words or other ceremonies than the tears and sighs of the few beholders."

As soon as Charles was dead the Parliament declared that lords were useless and dangerous, and that they would have no more of them. They also said that kings were "unnecessary, burdensome, and dangerous to the liberty of the people." And that they would have no more of them, and that England should henceforth be a Commonwealth or Free State. Even before the King was beheaded, the Parliament had declared it to be against the law for any one to proclaim his son, Prince Charles, King. But the Scots, who had never meant that the King should be killed, were angry at what the English had done. They at once proclaimed Prince Charles King, and made ready to fight for him. The Irish did the same, and, besides this, there were many in England who were ready to join them. Soon the whole country was again in arms.