October 17, 1660: The signers of the King’s death warrant meet their fate. King Charles I was the King of England and Ireland from March 27, 1625 until he was executed on January 30, 1649. The High Court of Justice was established by the Rump Parliament for the purpose of trying the King. During the English Civil War, Charles was permitted to have a small amount of power, but in using it, he provoked the second Civil War. Oliver Cromwell felt the King was responsible for the deaths of thousands due to the wars. The King’s trial began in Westminster Hall on January 20, 1649 and the end result was that 59 Commissioners signed the King’s death warrant.
Charles II, his son, became the King of Scotland on February 5, 1649 while England was under the English Interregnum or the English Commonwealth period and ruled by Oliver Cromwell. The Battle of Worcester in 1651 was lost by the Scots and Charles II fled to the continent while Cromwell became dictator of the entire island. Cromwell died in 1658 and the rule of Great Britain was uncertain. It was decided that the monarchy would be restored and on May 29, 1660 (his 30th birthday), Charles II was received in London to public acclaim. All documents were then back dated to seem as if he had immediately followed his father to the throne. John Bradshaw (President of the Court), Oliver Cromwell, and Henry Ireton (Cromwell’s son-in-law) were posthumously executed by having their bodies disinterred and hanged and beheaded.
Something had to be done with the various officials who had condemned Charles I to death and so they were brought to their own trial. Nineteen of the signatories were already dead by the time of the restoration. That did not stop them from being tried. The first to be executed was Thomas Harrison who died four days earlier. He was hanged, drawn, and quartered as soon as possible as he was a leader of the Fifth Monarchists and still posed a threat to Charles II. On this day, six Commissioners and four others were found guilty of regicide. One was hanged while the other nine were hanged, drawn, and quartered. In 1662, three more men were hanged, drawn, and quartered for the same offense. Nineteen more served life imprisonment.
In order to escape prosecution, seven of the signatories fled to Switzerland, four made their way to the Netherlands, and four escaped to Germany. Three made their way to America. John Dixwell was presumed dead in England and so no search warrants were issued. He lived in the colonies under an assumed name. Edward Whalley (c. 1607-1675) and his son-in-law William Goffe (c. 1605-1679 [really]) landed in Boston on July 27, 1660 and were received by the Governor. Upon their arrival it was thought they may have been pardoned. When it was later learned they weren’t, opinions were divided. Before the colonials could come to a consensus, the men fled, first to New Haven and then when they were found there, they escaped again. They managed to elude capture.
Will you dwell on killing this man? You wish for revenge? If you do, he has already killed you by slow poison. So, let it go. Why waste your time? His life will see to his death. – Lloyd Alexander
I tasted too what was called the sweet of revenge — but it was transient, it expired even with the object, that provoked it. – Ann Radcliffe
Nothing inspires forgiveness quite like revenge. – Scott Adams
There is no revenge so complete as forgiveness. – Josh Billings
Also on this day: National Geographic – In 1888, the National Geographic Society began publishing a new magazine.
Fore – In 1860, the Open Championship was first played.
War on Poverty – In 1993, the UN sponsored its first International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
Tornado – In 1091, the London Tornado struck.
Man’s Achievement – In 1965, the New York World’s Fair closed.