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Charles I's Executioners (Hardback)

Civil War, Regicide and the Republic

British History P&S History 17th Century Royal History

By James Hobson
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 224
Illustrations: 20 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526761842
Published: 4th November 2020

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On an icy winter’s day in January 1649, a unique event in English history took place on a scaffold outside of Whitehall: Charles I, King of England, was executed. The king had been held to account and the Divine Right of Kings disregarded. Regicide, a once-unfathomable act, formed the basis of the Commonwealth’s new dawn.

The killers of the king were soldiers, lawyers, Puritans, Republicans and some simply opportunists, all brought together under one infamous banner. While the events surrounding Charles I and Cromwell are well-trodden, the lives of the other fifty-eight men – their backgrounds, ideals and motives – has been sorely neglected.

Their stories are a powerful tale of revenge and a clash of beliefs; their fates determined by that one decision. When Charles II was restored he enacted a deadly wave of retribution against the men who had secured his father’s fate. Some of the regicides pleaded for mercy, many went into hiding or fled abroad; others stoically awaited their sentence. This is their shocking story: the ideals that united them, and the decision that unmade them.

I recommend this book.I have a strong feeling that this will be a valuable reference work for a long time to come.

Read the full review here

aBurntShip, 17th century War and Literature

An event is history that stands out against many of the time, on a scaffold in Whitehall Charles I, King of England was executed held to account and the divine right of kings was disregarded. The killers of the king were Puritans, lawyers, soldiers, republicans and some even opportunists. When his son Charles II was restored to the throne he enacted a deadly wave of retribution against these men. This is their shocking story and looks at the ideals of what united them and the decision that unmade them.

What then comes across in the book which looks at a small group of men in each chapter of different profession is that these men decided up on this through being influenced by many factors such as religion, laws, politics, money and advancement. What is interesting to read is how most these 59 men either lost money, died or some even fled the country. I would say that this is good book and a very interesting read, certainly worthwhile for someone interested in the subject or the Charles I. The book seems to be very well researched by the author and I think this is echoed by the list of sources mentioned at the back of the book.

Read the full review here

UK Historian

This is well-worth reading if you are interested in King Charles 1, and the English Civil War.

NetGalley, Lisa Sanderson

I really enjoyed reading this book, I enjoyed that this was a nonfiction historical book. The author was able to research this well and well written.

NetGalley, Kay McLeer

Loved this book. I adore history and the dark side of it and this book did not disappoint at all and really found it fascinating. If you like dark history you will like this.

NetGalley, Louise Corrigan

The Stuart period of history hasn't really been within my history purview - I know enough about it but have not really researched further, preferring to focus instead on the traditional medieval period. Having said that, I love historical fiction, and with no real time boundaries, I have found myself wandering into the realm of the Stuarts over the past year or so.

The regicides of Charles I featured in a number of historical fiction accounts of the period, and I became familiar with a few of the names - but not all, and certainly not their fates. So, after picking up a copy of Charles Spenser's "Killer of the King" I took the plunge, and was so pleased to be then able to read Hobson's account.

This is a more simplified version - it is not strictly a biography of the nearly 135 participants in the trial and execution of King Charles I of England, nor does it go into any great detail about the English Civil War (it is assumed that the reader has some fore-knowledge). What Hobson has done instead is present a series of themed vignettes of the 59 who actually signed the warrant of execution for King Charles I of England.

What I discovered was incredibly interesting. The men came mostly from the gentry class; their motivations varied from personal, political, economic, and religious; not all were active to the same capacity; not all were guilty to the same degrees; not all did it for "honourable" reasons. I also learnt that where their signatures were placed on the document was in no way indicative of their importance. The vignettes are not overly detailed - they cover off each individual's family background, motivation, career (pre and post execution) and their fate after the restoration of the English monarchy under Charles II.

Unless you are a keen student of the period, many of names will be very unfamiliar - and even Hobson questions why some were included on the list of those to be executed for treason when some who were more active participants got off scott free. What cannot be taken away from these men - of whom only nine suffered to be hanged, drawn and quartered, was that they all died well, believing in and in some cases, becoming martyrs, for their cause.

If you are looking to add to your knowledge for the English Civil War and the Restoration, you could do no better than to add this book to your recommended reading list. There are many small snippets that have intrigued me and now require further investigation.

NetGalley, Melisende d'Outremer

Hobson's book provides key biographical information points for the politicians behind the radical wing of the English Civil War and those who ultimately pushed for Cromwell and the execution of Charles. The book illustrates how revolutionary those ideas were and Hobson's language is both engaging and digestible.

NetGalley, Shonda Wilson

Love history books and this one did not disappoint. Well researched. Amazing what people would/will do all for religion. I learning quite a bit from this book.

NetGalley, Cyn Farabee

In January of 1649, Charles I was publicly executed by his own people, in his own country, England. This fascinating book examines a vantage point I hadn't thought of which is of the fifty nine English and Welsh men who signed the king's death warrant.

The range of men include rich and poor, educated and uneducated, army officers and MPs. Most were gentry to varying degrees from a cobbler and a merchant to a lawyer to an aristocrat. A few were diplomatic and kind and cared about the welfare of people, especially the poor, but others were cruel and didn't even acknowledge the poor.

What nearly all these regicides have in common is religion (Puritans) and politics (republicans). A few definitely improved financially which was a motivator to begin with. After the execution many lost money, too. All were committed to the cause, at least until many were sentenced to horrific death for treason. Some remained courageous and were martyrs but some (understandably) were cowards and tried to flee or plead ignorance. A few died of comparatively "easy" deaths by natural causes in obscurity.

Very few names of the wives are known but Lucy Hutchinson thankfully wrote her husband's memoirs which give incredible insight into the people and events. After sentencing and imprisonment, a few wives successfully pled for leniency for their husbands.

This book is thoroughly researched and contains illustrations of some of these men. I recommend it to those interested in this time era and who wish a unique look at the men who brought about this execution which changed British history. The author answered questions I didn't realize I had!

NetGalley, Brenda Carleton

About James Hobson

James Hobson has taught and written about History as a teacher for twenty-five years. His first book was The Dark Days of Georgian Britain, a social history of the Regency period. His other interest is the civil war – studying this as his specialism under Professor John Morrill while at the University of Cambridge.

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