Notable Historical Trials II – Charles I

This Folio Society set of three books contains chapters about famous trials in history. I had previously finished the first and part of the second volume before it got pushed down in the stack, but now it is again getting some work. Each chapter consists of excerpts of other works, with some framing text. It’s an informative and enjoyable book, which is especially noteworthy since the subject isn’t one that I go into naturally. So the bar is set a bit higher, which it passes.

I just finished the chapter on King Charles I’s trial.  After winning the English Civil War, Cromwell and the Parliament tried the king on various charges, which mostly came down to tried for losing. Apparently much like in the later French Revolution, the republican forces wanted to put a cap on their win by executing the king.  Tactically this ended up being a mistake, since the king had heirs that were free, and even Parliament itself could think of nothing to do after Cromwell’s death than to restore the monarchy.

Given the nature of the trial, Charles’ basic defense that his trial before Parliament was not valid because they were not a court and he, as king, was above them anyway, hardly mattered.  His behavior after sentencing and at the execution made him a martyr which played a substantial part in the eventual restoration of the line.


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