The Regicides.*

These were  the people who signed the Death Warrant of Charles I, of whom some forty one of the original fifty nine were still living in 1660. Fifteen of the survivors fled the country at this time with three - John Dixwell, Edmund Whalley and William Goffe, going to New England. Goffe was a resident in Hadley, Massachusetts. William Cawley, Edmund Ludlow, John Lisle and the two Clerks of the Court -John Phelps and Andrew Broughton, went to Switzerland.  Lisle had the misfortune to be stabbed to death by an Irish loyalist when on his way to church in Lausanne. The other four went to live in Vevay where they lived out their lives.  Ludlow tried to return in 1688 but as soon as he appeared an warrant was issued for his arrest, and he returned to Switzerland.

Five others, Michael Livesey, William Say, Daniel Blagrave, Thomas Chaloner, and John Hewson went to Germany and the Low Countries ( Holland) . Another, Thomas Scot went to Belgium then surrendered to the English ambassador in Brussels resigned to his execution in due course. John Okey, John Barkstead and Miles Corbet went to Holland but were betrayed by George Downing ( a former scoutmaster with Cromwell`s army). All three were brought back and executed at Tyburn. Samuel Pepys wrote of this event  that "They all looked very cheerful but I hear  they all died defending what they did to the king to be just, which is very strange". This public utterance implies that Pepys was against the execution of the king. But strange indeed is his contrary writing in his Diary for 1 November 1660 when meeting an old school friend, a Mr Christmas:- "He did remember that I was a great Roundhead when I was a boy, and that I was much afeared that he would have remembered the words that I said the day that the King [Charles I ] was beheaded - that were I to preach upon him , my text should be  " The memory of the wicked shall rot".

There were also a number of other persons intimately involved such as Francis Hacker, Robert Phayre and Hercules Hunks - three of the physical captors and Matthew Tomlinson who had been responsible  at Windsor for the custody of the king. Hugh Peter a minister, could expect little sympathy for having preached so vehemently against Charles, nor could Daniel Axtell who had commanded the guard at Westminster Hall. Most of them were tracked down and quite a few were executed. Surprisingly some were also `let off` having provided  an excuse, principal among them was that they were forced to sign by Cromwell.

Be that as it may, the revenge on Cromwell, Ireton and Bradshaw was public and perhaps over the top - their bodies were exhumed from within Westminster Abbey and hung on a gibbet at Tyeburn for a day ( 30 January 1661). After this the bodies were decapitated, the corpses buried at the foot of the gallows and the heads impaled and displayed at Westminster. It is said that Cromwell`s head was especially difficult to remove and required several swings of an axe and a sharp knife. The skull was apparently blown down in a storm one night and was taken home by a soldier. In later years it surfaced and is allegedly buried in a secret place at Cambridge University.

Those that stayed and submitted to trial variously claimed a minor role, or had been misled, or were weak and ignorant. Except for the two Fifth Monarchy men, Thomas Harrison and John Carew, they had little expectation of mercy, and Gregory Clement ( whose name had been scratched out on the warrant ) eventually submitted to trial. Mostly they were sentenced to death but this was commuted to life imprisonment. In the end only nine of the regicides suffered the penalty of hanging, drawing and quartering. They were:  Colonel John Jones (Cromwell`s brother in law), Adrian Scroope, Thomas Harrison, John Carew, Thomas Scot, Gregory Clement,  John Okey, John Batkstead, and Miles Corbet. Four who had not signed the death warrant were also executed: John Cook, Hugh Peter, Daniel Axtell and Francis Hacker. To this list might be added Lieutenant William Govan who had previously proudly carried Montrose`s standard back to the Scottish Parliament. He had deserted to the Cromwellian ranks  and a warrant issued for his arrest in 1651. He was taken up, executed and beheaded alongside James Guthrie  in Edinburgh 1 June 1661. There is some thought that he had been an headsman or guard on the scaffold at the execution of Charles I.

But the bloodletting was far from over as Charles II sought absolute, personal rule during his reign.

* An excellent account of the last days of Charles I is The Trial of Charles I  by C.V Wedgwood,  Wm Collins & Sons Ltd, (1964).

Home Scottish Reformation The Covenanters Ulster Scots English Reformation European Reformation General Topics & Glossary My Books & Bibliography Contact