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King Charles I of England Beheaded For Treason

Today on January 30, 1649, King Charles I was executed after swiftly being found guilty of treason by Parliament.

On March 27, 1625, King Charles I was crowned King of England following the death of his father. As the second son of King James I, he only became heir after his popular older brother Henry suddenly died. Like his father, Charles believed in the divine right of kings. His ‘my way or the highway’ philosophy caused deep political strife. From day one, the elected members of Parliament tried to curb his royal prerogative. In response to political opposition, King Charles often dissolved Parliament, opting to make state decisions without their consent. On January 4, 1642, he boldly marched into the House of Commons to arrest the five ringleaders suspected of conspiring against him. Marching into the elected house with armed soldiers pushed the parliamentarians to the brink. From their perspective, this was a severe disgrace and the reason why British monarchs still are not allowed to enter the Commons.

Friction between the monarchy and parliamentarians reached a boiling point. On August 22, 1642, King Charles raised his standard in Nottingham and began amassing an army. Parliament quickly followed suit. England erupted into a bitter civil war that lasted nearly a decade. The parliamentarians were commanded by the relatively unknown leader, Oliver Cromwell. He reformed the troops into the New Model Army and decisively defeated Royalist Army at the Battle of Naseby. King Charles fled the battlefield and evaded capture on several occasions. He eventually surrendered to a Scottish army, which in turn handed him over to Parliament in 1647. A new royalist army formed in mid-1648 to rescue the king but was no match for the Roundheads.

Oliver Cromwell hastily expelled any royal sympathizers from the Commons. He essentially staged a military coup known as the Rump Parliament. In January 1649, a kangaroo court controlled by his political enemies tried King Charles. He repeatedly stated that Parliament had no jurisdiction over the monarchy. After a three-day trial, judges found the king guilty of treason and sentenced him death. On January 30, an unknown executioner beheaded King Charles on a scaffold at Banqueting House. Cromwell subsequently abolished the monarchy and assumed full control over the Commonwealth. In many ways, he became a dictator in his own right. By 1660, Cromwell died, and the monarchy was restored. The eldest son of the deceased king, Charles II, was invited to return from exile in France by the English Parliament. The Stuart dynasty continued until 1714 with the death of Queen Anne.

The King of England was not a person, but an office whose every occupant was entrusted with a limited power to govern by and according to the laws of the land and not otherwise.


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