Young Folks' History of England HTML version

35. Death Of Charles I, A.D. 1649—1651
The Long Parliament did not wish to have no king, only to make him do what
they pleased; and then went on trying whether he would come back to reign
according to their notions. He would have given up a great deal, but when
they wanted him to declare that there should be no bishops in England he
would never consent, for he thought there could be no real Church without
bishops, as our Lord himself had appointed.
At last, after there had been much debating, and it was plain that it would
never come to an end, Oliver Cromwell sent some of his officers to take King
Charles into their hands, instead of the persons appointed by Parliament. So
the king was prisoner to the army instead of to the parliament.
Cromwell was a very able man, and he saw that nobody could settle the
difficulties about the law and the rights of the people but himself. He saw that
things never would be settled while the king lived, nor by the Parliament, so
he sent one of his officers, named Pryde, to turnout all the members of
Parliament who would not do his will, and then the fifty who were left
appointed a court of officers and lawyers to try the king. Charles was brought
before them; but, as they had no right to try him, he would not say a word in
answer to them. Nevertheless, they sentenced him to have his head cut off.
He had borne all his troubles in the most meek and patient way, forgiving all
his enemies and praying for them: and he was ready to die in the same
temper. His queen was in France, and all his children were safe out of
England, except his daughter Elizabeth, who was twelve years old, and little
Henry, who was five. They were brought to Whitehall Palace for him to see
the night before he was to die. He took the little boy on his knee, and talked
a long time to Elizabeth, telling her what books to read and giving her his
message to her mother and brothers; and then he told little Henry to mark
what he said, and to mind that he must never be set up as a king while his
elder brothers, Charles and James were alive. The little boy said through his
tears, "I will be torn to pieces first." His father kissed and blessed the two
children, and left them.
The next day was the 30th of January, 1649. The king was allowed to have
Bishop Juxon to read and pray with him, and to give him the holy
communion. After that, forgiving his enemies and praying for them, he was
led to the Banqueting House at Whitehall, and out through a window, on to
the scaffold hung with black cloth. He said his last prayers, and the
executioner cut off his head with one blow, and held it up to the people. He
was buried at night,—a light snow falling at the time,—in St. George's Chapel
at Windsor, by four faithful noblemen, but they were not allowed to use any
service over his grave.