I went to Lyme Park in Cheshire today to see the exhibition ‘Charles I: King and Martyr’. Lyme Park has a set of chairs reputedly upholstered with the silk lining of the cloak in which Charles went to his execution. Also on display were a pair of the king’s gloves, his dagger and his eating knife as well as selection of images of him and his execution. It was fascinating but slightly chilling.
On the 30th January 1649, after reigning for almost 24 years, Charles went to his execution on a scaffold outside his palace of Whitehall in London having been found guilty of high treason.
He had ruled as an absolute monarch believing that he had a divine right to be king and had no need of parliament. His attitude had led to a civil war and even when defeated he refused to accept demands for a constitutional monarchy. At his trial he wore a hat throughout the proceedings to show that he did acknowledge the court’s authority and when he was found guilty he went to his death as a martyr. His final words were that he went ‘from a corruptible to an incorruptible crown’.
Following his death many people struggled with their guilt at the killing of an anointed king and a cult of sainthood grew up around him. Many of the pictures in the exhibition draw parallels between the execution of Charles and the death of Jesus.
Charles severed head was sewn back onto his body before it was taken for private burial at St George’s chapel, Windsor.