impertinent interference he so angrily resented.—Ibid.
TRIAL OF CHARLES I.
On the morning of Jan. 20th, 1648, towards noon, the High Court, having first held its secret sitting in the Painted Chamber, prepared to enter upon the final details of its mission. Prayers were scarcely over, before it was announced that the king, borne in a close sedan between two rows of soldiers, was on the point of making his appearance. Cromwell ran to the windows, and as suddenly hastened back, pale yet highly excited—"He is here, he is here, sirs; the hour for this grand affair draws nigh. Decide promptly, I beseech you, what you intend to reply; for he will instantly inquire in whose name and by what authority you presume to try him." No one making any reply, Henry Martin at length observed—"In the name of the Commons assembled in Parliament, and of all the good people of England." To this no objection was made. The court proceeded in solemn procession towards Westminster Hall, the President Bradshaw at its head; before him were borne the mace and sword; and sixteen officers armed with partisans, preceded the court. The President took his place in an arm-chair adorned with crimson velvet; at his feet sat the clerk, near a table covered with a rich Turkey carpet, and upon which were placed the mace and sword. On the right and left appeared the members of the court upon seats of scarlet cloth; while at the two ends of the hall stood the guards, all armed, a little in advance of the tribunal. The court being installed, all the doors were thrown open; the crowd rushed into the hall. Silence being restored, the act of the Commons appointing the court was read, the names were called over, and sixty-nine members were found to be present. "Sergeant," said Bradshaw, "let the prisoner be brought forward!"
The king appeared under guard of Colonel Hacker and thirty-two officers. An arm-chair, adorned with crimson velvet, was in readiness for him at the bar. He came forward; fixed a long and severe look upon the court, and seated himself without taking off his hat. Suddenly he rose, looked round at the guard upon the left, and at the spectators upon the right of the hall; again fixed his eyes upon his judges, and then sat down, amidst the general silence of the court.
Bradshaw rose instantly:—"Charles Stuart, King of England, the English Commons assembled in Parliament, deeply penetrated with a sense of the evils that have fallen upon this nation, and of which you are considered the chief author, are resolved to inquire into this sanguinary crime. With this view they have instituted this High Court of Justice, before which you are summoned this day. You will now hear the charges to be preferred against you."
The Attorney General Coke now rose. "Silence!" exclaimed the king, at the same time touching him on the shoulder with his cane. Coke, surprised and irritated, turned round; the handle of the king's cane fell off, and for a few moments he appeared deeply affected. None of his attendants were at hand to take it up; he stooped and picked it up himself, and then resumed his seat. Coke proceeded to read the act imputing to the king all the evils arising first out of his tyranny, subsequently from the war; and requiring that he should be bound to reply to the charges, and that judgment should be pronounced against him as a tyrant, a traitor, and a murderer.
During this time, the king continued seated, directing his eyes towards his judges, or towards the spectators, without betraying any emotion. Once he rose; turned his back upon the court to see what was passing behind him, and again sat down with an expression at once of inquisitiveness and indifference in his manner. Upon hearing the words: "Charles Stuart, a tyrant, traitor, and murderer," he laughed, though he still remained silent.
The act being read, "Sir," said Bradshaw, "you have now heard the act of accusation against you: the court expects you to reply."
The King. "First, I wish to know by what authority I am summoned here. A short time since, I was in the Isle of Wight engaged in negociations with both houses of parliament, under guarantee of the public faith. We were upon the point of concluding a treaty. I would be informed by what authority—I say legitimate authority—for of illegitimate authorities there are, I know, many, like that of robbers on the highway;—I would be informed, I repeat, by what authority I have been dragged from place to place, I know not with what views. When I am made acquainted with this legitimate authority, I will reply."
Bradshaw. "If you had attended to what was addressed to you by the court upon your arrival, you would know in what this authority consisted. It calls upon you, in the name of the people of England, of whom you were elected king, to make a reply."
The King. "No sir, I deny this."
Bradshaw. "If you refuse to acknowledge the authority of the court, it will proceed against you."
The King. "I maintain that England never was an elective kingdom; for nearly the space of a thousand years it has been altogether an hereditary one. Let me know, then, by what authority I am summoned here. Inquire from Colonel Cobbett, who is here at hand, if I were not brought by force from the Isle of Wight. I will yield to none in maintaining the just privileges of the House of Commons in this place. But where are the Lords? I see no Lords here necessary to constitute a parliament. A king, moreover, is essential to it. Now is this what is meant by bringing the king to meet his parliament?"
Bradshaw. "Sir, the court awaits a definitive answer from you. If what we have stated respecting our authority does not satisfy you, it is sufficient for us, we know that it is founded upon the authority of God and of the country."
The King. "It is neither my opinion nor yours which should decide."
Bradshaw. "The court has heard you; you will be disposed of according to its orders. Let the prisoner be removed. The court adjourns until Monday."
The court then withdrew; and the king retired under the same escort that had accompanied him. Upon rising he perceived the sword placed upon the table, "I have no fear of that," he observed, pointing towards it with his cane. As he descended the staircase, several voices called out "Justice! justice!" but far the greater number were heard to exclaim, "God save the king! God save your majesty."
On the morrow at the opening of the sitting, sixty-two members being present, the court ordered strict silence to be observed under pain of imprisonment. On his arrival, however, the king was not the less received with marked applause. The same sort of discussion commenced, and with equal obstinacy on both sides. "Sir," at length, exclaimed Bradshaw, "neither you, nor any other person shall be permitted to question the jurisdiction of this court. It sits by authority of the Commons of England—an authority to which both you and your predecessors are to be held responsible."
The King. "I deny that. Show me a single precedent." Bradshaw rose up in a passion: "Sir, we do not sit here to reply to your questions. Plead to the accusation, guilty or not guilty."
The King. "You have not yet heard my reasons."
Bradshaw. "Sir, no reason can be advanced against the highest of all jurisdictions."
The King. "Point out to me this jurisdiction; or you refuse to hear reason."
Bradshaw. "Sir, we show it to you here. Here are the Commons of England. Sergeant, remove the prisoner."
The king on this turned suddenly round towards the people. "Bear in mind," he said, "that the king of England has been condemned without being permitted to state his reasons in support of the people's liberty."