Trial and Execution of the King

The leaders of the army being anxious to fortify themselves by all possible means against the Presbyterians, opened a negotiation with the king, whose influence, such as it now was, they proposed to purchase, by allowing Episcopacy to be the state religion, and leaving him in command of the militia. Charles, however, with characteristic insincerity, carried on at the same time a negotiation with the Presbyterians, which, being discovered by the military chiefs, caused them to break off all terms with him. Under dread of their resentment, he made his escape from Hampton Court ( November 11, 1647): and after an unsuccessful attempt to leave the kingdom, was obliged to put himself under the charge of the governor of Carisbrooke Castle, in the Isle of Wight. Here he entered upon a new negotiation with the House of Commons, to whom he made proposals, and from whom he received certain proposals in return; all of which were, how ever, rendered of non-avail by a secret treaty which he at the same time carried on with a moderate party of the Scottish Presbyterians.

He finally agreed with the latter party, but under strict secrecy, to give their form of church government a trial of three years, and yield to them in several other points; they, in return, binding themselves to unite their strength with the English Royalists, for the purpose of putting down the Independent party, now predominant in the English Parliament. With some difficulty the Duke of Hamilton and others, who conducted this negotiation, succeeded, by a vote of the Scottish Parliament, in raising an army of 12,000 men, with which they invaded England in the summer of 1648. The more zealous of the clergy and people of Scotland protested against an enterprise, which, from its cooperating with Royalists and Episcopalians, and not perfectly insuring the ascendancy of the Presbyterian church, appeared to them as neither deserving of success nor likely to command it. As the Scottish army penetrated the western counties, parties of Presbyterians and Royalists rose in different parts of England, and for some time the ascendancy of the Independents seemed to be in considerable peril. But before the forces of the enemy could be brought together, Cromwell, with 8000 veteran troops, attacked and overthrew Hamilton at Preston, while Fairfax put down the insurgents in Kent and Essex. Hamilton was himself taken prisoner, and very few of his troops ever returned to their native country.

While Cromwell was employed in suppressing this insurrection, and in restoring a friendly government in Scotland, the Presbyterians of the House of Commons, relieved from military intimidation, entered upon a new negotiation with Charles, which was drawing towards what appeared a successful conclusion - though the king secretly designed to deceive them, and to pursue other means for an effectual restoration when the army returned to London, breathing vengeance against him for the last war, of which they considered him as the author. Finding the Parliament in the act of voting his concessions to be satisfactory, Cromwell sent two regiments, under Colonel Pride, who forcibly excluded from it about two hundred members of the Presbyterian party; a transaction remembered by the epithet of Pride's Purge. The remainder, being chiefly Independents, were ready to give a color of law to whatever farther measure might be dictated by the military leaders. Convinced of the utter faithlessness of the king, and that, if he continued to live, he would take the earliest opportunity of revenging himself for what had already been done, Cromwell and his associates resolved to put him to death. A high court of Justice, as it was called, 'was appointed by ordinance, consisting of a hundred and thirty-three persons, named indifferently from the Parliament, the army, and such of the citizens as were known to be well affected to the Independent party. This body sat down in Westminster Hall (January 20, 1649), under the presidency of a barrister named Bradshaw, while another named Coke acted as solicitor for the people of England. Charles, who had been removed to St James' Palace, was brought before this court, and accused of having waged and renewed war upon his people, and of having attempted to establish tyranny in place of the limited regal power with which he had been intrusted. He denied the authority of the court, and protested against the whole of the proceedings, but was nevertheless found guilty and condemned to die. On the 30th of January, he was accordingly beheaded in front of his palace of Whitehall.