CHARLES I.—THE STORY OF HOW THE KING WAS BROUGHT TO HIS DEATH
"God gives not kings the style of gods in vain,
For on the throne His sceptre do they sway;
And as their subjects ought them to obey,
So kings should fear and serve their God again.
If, then, ye would enjoy a happy reign,
Observe the statutes of our heavenly king,
And from His law make all your laws to spring.
If His lieutenant here you would remain,
Reward the just, be steadfast, true, and plain;
Repress the proud, maintaining aye the right;
Walk always so as ever in His sight,
Who guards the godly, plaguing the profane;
And so shall you in princely virtues shine,
Resembling right your mighty King divine."
THIS poetry was written by James to his son, and perhaps it
would have been better both for James and Charles had they
tried to rule as the poem says kings ought to rule.
After Charles became the prisoner of the army, letters and
messages passed continually between him and Parliament, and
between him and the leaders of the army. Both parties
offered to replace the King upon the throne if he would only
promise them certain things. But these things Charles would
not promise, for all the time he was secretly plotting with
his friends, and hoping to free himself.
 The leaders of the army treated Charles very kindly,
allowing him to see his friends, and to have a great deal of
liberty. This made it easy for him to escape, which he did,
and fled to Carisbrooke Castle in the Isle of Wight. But
although he thought that he was going to friends, he found
that he was again a prisoner, and more carefully guarded
The struggle for power between Parliament and army still
went on. But Cromwell was master of the army, and he meant
to be master of Parliament too. So one day when Parliament
was about to meet, a man called Colonel Pride surrounded the
House with soldiers. As they arrived, each member who would
not do exactly as Cromwell and the other army leaders
wished, was seized and turned away. When this was done there
were only about fifty members left. This was called Pride's
Purge, because he purged or cleaned away all those who did
not think exactly as he did. It was still the Long
Parliament that was sitting, but people now called it the
Rump Parliament, because it was not a real parliament, but
only part of one.
Cromwell was master of King and Parliament, but the army was
too strong even for him. Against his will he was driven to
do a deed from which he shrank. He was driven to condemn the
King to death.
Charles was accused of high treason against the nation, and
was brought to London to be tried. This was a crime which
had never been heard of before, as high treason means a
crime against the ruler.
More than a hundred men were called as judges of the King,
but scarcely half of them came. Many of them were angry with
Charles, and wished him to be punished. But the punishment
for treason they knew was death, and they did not wish the
King to be killed.
 The judges assembled at Westminster Hall, and King Charles
was brought before them as a prisoner. They who had always
stood bareheaded in his presence, now sat with their hats
upon their heads. Seeing that, Charles too kept on his hat,
but it was seen that his hair, which had been very
beautiful, had grown grey, and that he looked old and worn.
Charles had been foolish, he had been wicked, but now, in
the face of death, he behaved with the dignity of a king.
The men who sat before him, he said, had no right to judge
or condemn him. He would not plead for mercy. Three times he
was brought before the court, three times he refused to
plead. At last the judges, without further trial, sentenced
him to death as a "tyrant, a traitor, a murderer, and a
Calm and dignified as ever, Charles walked out of the hall
after the sentence had been pronounced.
"God bless your Majesty," cried a soldier as he passed, and
was struck by his officer for daring to say such words.
"Methinks," said the King, pausing and smiling at the man,
"the punishment is greater than the fault."
Three days later Charles the King walked for the last time
through the streets of London, from St. James's Palace to
Whitehall. The way was lined with soldiers, soldiers marched
in front of him and behind him; the air was filled with the
noise of trampling feet and the sound of drums.
The scaffold was raised outside the Palace of Whitehall, and
hundreds of people crowded to see the dreadful end of their
King, some in joy, very many in grief and awe.
Charles knelt by the block amid deep silence. And when a man
in a black mask held up the King's head,
 crying, "Behold the
head of a traitor!" a groan burst from the shuddering crowd.
"He nothing common did or mean
Upon that memorable scene,
But with his keener eye
The axe's edge did try;
"Nor called the gods with vulgar spite
To vindicate his helpless right;
But bowed his comely head
Down, as upon a bed."