Quotes from King Charles I at his trial and execution

Here are some quotes from King Charles I during his trial:

Saturday, January 20, 1649

“I would know by what power I am called hither.”  (his first statement in the trial)

“Now, I would know by what authority – I mean lawful – there are many unlawful authorities in the world – thieves and robbers by the highways – but I would know by what authority I was brought from thence and carried from place to place, and I know not what.  And when I know what lawful authority, I shall answer.  Remember, I am your King – your lawful King – and what sins you bring upon your heads and the judgment of God upon this land, think well upon it – I say think well upon it – before you go further from one sin to a greater.  Therefore let me know by what lawful authority I am seated here and I shall not be unwilling to answer.  In the meantime, I shall not betray my trust.  I have a trust committed to me by God, by old and lawful descent.  I will not betray it to answer to a new unlawful authority.  Therefore, resolve me that, and you shall hear more of me.”

“I do stand for the liberty of my people than any here that come to be my pretended judges.”

“I do not come here as submitting to the court.”

“I will stand as much for the privilege of the House of Commons, rightly understood, as any man here whatsoever.”

“I see no House of Lords here that may constitute a parliament, and the King too should have been.”

“Is this the bringing of the King to his Parliament?  Is this the bringing an end to the treaty in the public faith of the world?”

“Let me see legal authority warranted by the Word of God – the Scriptures – or warranted by the constitution of the kingdom, and I will answer.”

“Let me tell you, it is not a slight thing you are about.”

“If you do it by a usurped authority, that will not last long.”  (he speaks of the court using an usurped authority to try him)

“For I do avow that it is as great a sin to withstand (he means resist) lawful authority as it is to submit to a tyrannical or any otherwise unlawful authority.”

“I am not afraid of the Bill.”  (he means the Bill that condemns him)

The following is an excerpt of an exchange between the Lord President of the High Court (John Bradshaw) and King Charles: 

Lord President:  “We are satisfied with our authority . . . “ (said in response to King Charles’s request for proof of authority)

King Charles:  “ . . . But that you have said satisfies no man.” 

Lord President:  “That’s in your apprehension.  We think it reasonable that are your judges.”

King Charles:  “ ’Tis not my apprehension – nor yours either – that ought to decide it.”

Lord President:  “The court hath heard you, and you are to be disposed of as they have commanded.”

As King Charles was escorted out of the hall he pointed with his staff at the Sword of State that was lying on the Clerks table and said:  “I do not fear that”.

Monday, January 22, 1649

The Lord President makes this statement about the courts authority:

“They are fully satisfied with their own authority . . .”

“But it is not my case alone – it is the freedom and the liberty of the people of England.  And do you pretend what you will, I stand more for their liberties – for if power without law may make laws, may alter the fundamental laws of the kingdom, I do not know what subject he is in England that can be sure of his life or anything that he calls his own.”

“Sir, by your favor, I do not know the forms of law;  I do know law and reason, though.  I am no lawyer professed, but I know as much law as any gentleman in England.”

“ . . . and demand to be heard with my reasons.  If you deny that, you deny reason.”

The Lord President makes this statement about their authority: 

“They do affirm their own jurisdiction.”

“I say, sir, by your favor, that the Commons of England was never a court of judicature.”

“Sir, I am not an ordinary prisoner.”

“You never heard my reasons yet.”

“Show me jurisdiction where reason is not to be heard.”

“Sir, under favor, it was the liberty, freedom, and laws of the subject that ever I took – defended myself with arms.  I never took up arms against the people, but for the laws.”

Tuesday, January 23, 1649

“I desire to know yet whether I may speak freely or not.”

“For me to acknowledge a new court that I have never heard of before – I that am your King, that should be an example to all the people of England for to uphold justice, to maintain the old laws – indeed I do not know how to do it.”

“How I came here, I know not – there’s no law for it, to make your King your prisoner.”

“But to acknowledge a new court against their (meaning the peoples) privileges, to alter the fundamental laws of the kingdom – sir, you must excuse me.”

Saturday, January 27, 1649 – the day of his sentencing

“I desire a word to be heard a little, and I hope I shall give no occasion of interruption.”

“Well, sir, shall I be heard before the judgment be given?”

When the Lord President made a statement “ . . . brought before this court to make an answer to a charge of treason and other high crimes exhibited against him in the name of the people of England”  a lady in the crowd yelled out “not half the people!” but was silenced with threats.

“ . . . before sentence is given – that I may be heard in the Painted Chamber before the Lords and the Commons.”

“But that if I cannot get this liberty (he means to talk before the Lords and Commons), I do protest that these fair shows of liberty and peace are pure shows, and that you will not hear your King.”

“I know that you have power enough.”

“I would desire only one word before you give sentence, and that you would hear me concerning those great imputations that you have laid to my charge.” (this was not given him)

After sentence was given King Charles said: “Will you hear me a word, sir?”

Lord President:  “Sir, you are not to be heard after the sentence.”

Tuesday, January 30, 1649, – Some quotes from King Charles I on the scaffold:

“ . . . for all the world knows that I never did begin a war with the two houses of Parliament.  And I call on God to witness – to whom I must shortly make an account – that I never did intend for to encroach on their privileges.”

“They (he means Parliament) began upon me:  it is the Militia they began upon.  They confessed the Militia was mine, but they thought it fit for to have it from me.”

“ . . . for I do believe that ill instruments between them (he means Parliament) and me have been the chief causes of all this bloodshed.”

“Yet for all this, God forbid that I should be so ill a Christian as not to say that God’s judgments are just upon me.”

“I will only say this, that an unjust sentence that I suffered for to take effect, is punished now by an unjust sentence upon me.”  (he speaks of his approval of the execution of Lord Stafford in 1641)

“ . . . I have forgiven all the world and even those in particular that have been the chief causers of my death.  Who they are, God knows.  I do not desire to know.”

“For conquests, sirs, in my opinion is never just, except there be a good just cause, either for matter of wrong or just title.  And then you go beyond it, the first quarrel that you have to it, that makes it unjust at the end that was just at first.  But if it be only a matter of conquest, then it is a great robbery;  as a pirate said to Alexander the Great that he was the great robber, he was but a petty robber.”

“Believe it, you will never do right, nor God will never prosper you, until you give God his due, the King his due – that is, my successors – and the people their due.”

“You must give God his due by regulating rightly His Church (according to His Scripture) which is now out of order.”

When a man touched the ax King Charles turned to him and said, “Hurt not the ax that may hurt me.”

“ . . . for the King, the laws of the land will clearly instruct you for that.”

“For the people – and truly I desire their liberty and freedom as much as anybody whomsoever – but I must tell you that their liberty and their freedom consists in having of government those laws by which their life and their goods may be most their own.  It is not for having share in government, sirs, that is nothing pertaining to them. “

“A subject and sovereign are clean different things.”

“If I would have given way to an arbitrary way for to have all laws changed according to the power of the sword, I needed not to have come here.  And therefore I tell you – and pray God it be not laid to your charge – that I am a martyr of the people.”

“I have a good cause, and a gracious God.”

When a man came close to the ax King Charles said, “Take heed of the ax, pray take heed of the ax?”

“I go from a corruptible to an incorruptible crown, where no disturbance can be, no disturbance in the world.”

“Remember!” (he said this after giving Dr. Juxon his St. George medal)

The last words said to anyone by King Charles I were said to the executioner:

“Stay for the sign?” (he didn’t want to be executed before he said his prayers, when he was ready he was to stretch his arms out, that was the ‘sign’).

(I wrote this in 2009)


Copyright by Mike Michelsen

This entry was posted in Government and politics, Historical stuff, King Charles I and the English Civil War, Law and legal stuff and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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