You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor and you will have war. — Winston Churchill

Story of the English - Helene Guerber


At first Charles was treated with great respect, although closely guarded; but before it was decided what to do next, a quarrel arose between Parliament, which was mostly Puritan, and the army, which was composed of a very strict set of Roundheads, called the Independents.

The army was very determined to have things its own way, and, seeing that Parliament showed signs of coming to terms with the king, Cromwell sent his captain Joyce to seize Charles. The king, surprised, asked to see Joyce's warrant; but when the captain silently pointed to the men who formed his escort, he said: "Your warrant is indeed drawn up in fair characters and legible."

It was useless to resist, so Charles, who all through his trials behaved with great dignity and gentleness, quietly allowed himself to be taken to Hampton Court. Then, seeing that Parliament was inclined to forgive the king, Cromwell placed soldiers at the door to prevent any but Independent members from going in. It was thus that the Rump Parliament, so called because it was only a small part of the state body, voted that the government should be placed in its hands, and that Charles should be tried as a traitor for taking up arms against the law.

The king was therefore brought before his judges, who addressed him as Charles Stuart. But he refused to answer their questions, saying they had no right to try him. When they accused him of treachery, in the name of the people of England, a voice in the audience boldly cried out: "No; not a tenth part of them."

But although many were still ready to defend the king, although the French and the Scotch protested against his arrest, and although Prince Charles, the king's eldest son, promised to do anything Parliament wished if it would only spare his father, Charles was condemned to death.

The Children of Charles I.

The king heard his sentence calmly, and asked only that he might take leave of two of his children, who were still in England. This wish was granted; and when Charles had his little son on his knee, he kissed him and said: "Mark, my child, what I say: they will cut off my head, and will want to make thee king; but thou must not be king so long as thy brothers Charles and James are alive. Therefore I charge thee not to be made king by them."

Little Prince Henry, who was too young to understand what was going on, was, however, so impressed by what his father said, that he looked up into Charles's face and solemnly said: "I will be torn in pieces first!"

This parting over, Charles got ready to die, with the help of his chaplain Juxon. He slept peacefully the last night, and, hearing that it was cold out of doors, he put on two shirts, lest the wind should make him shiver on the scaffold and the people should think he was afraid to die.

The scaffold had been erected just outside of Whitehall, so the king was led out to it through one of the windows of the banquet room. There was a great throng present, but the people were kept at a distance, and drums were beaten when the king began his last speech. But even on the scaffold Charles behaved in the same gentle way, and after saying that he had always done what he considered right, and that his only crime was to have consented to Strafford's execution, he prepared to die. The last word the king uttered was, "Remember," which he addressed to Juxon. A few moments later the executioner held up the king's head, saying, "This is the head of a traitor," and all the people burst into tears.

No one has ever known exactly to what the mysterious word "remember" referred, because Juxon would never tell; but it is generally supposed that Charles reminded his chaplain to be sure to tell his son never to avenge his death, but to forgive the men who had condemned him.

As most of the king's family were abroad, they suffered no harm. But the two children who had seen their father just before his death were sent to learn a trade. One of them, the little princess, died of grief for her father, but Cromwell finally took pity upon little Prince Henry and sent him over to his mother in France.


Front Matter

Early Times
The Druids
The Britons
Caesar in Britain
Queen Boadicea
The Great Walls
The Great Irish Saint
The Anglo-Saxons
Brave King Arthur
The Laws of the Saxons
The Story of St Augustine
Three Great Men
The Danish Pirates
King Alfred and the Cakes
Alfred conquers the Danes
A King's Narrow Escape
The King and the Outlaw
The Monasteries
An Unlucky Couple
St Dunstan
King Canute and the Waves
A Saxon Nobleman
Lady Godiva's Ride
The Battle of Hastings
The Conquest
Lords and Vassals
Death of William
The Brothers' Quarrels
Arms and Armour
The "White Ship"
Matilda's Narrow Escapes
Story of Fair Rosamond
Thomas a Becket
Murder of Thomas a Becket
Richard's Adventures
Richard and the Saracens
The Faithful Minstrel
Death of Richard
The Murder of Arthur
The Great Charter
The Rule of Henry III
A Race
Persecution of the Jews
The Conquest of Wales
A Quarrel with France
The Coronation Stone
The Insolent Favourite
Bruce and the Spider
Death of Edward II
The Murderers punished
The Battle of Crecy
The Siege of Calais
The Age of Chivalry
The Battle of Poitiers
The Peasants' Revolt
Richard's Presence of Mind
A Tiny Queen
Henry's Troubles
Madcap Harry
A Glorious Reign
The Maid of Orleans
The War of the Roses
The Queen and the Brigand
The Triumph of the Yorks
The Princes in the Tower
Richard's Punishment
Two Pretenders
A Grasping King
Field of the Cloth of Gold
The New Opinions
Death of Wolsey
Henry's Wives
The King and the Painter
A Boy King
Lady Jane Grey
The Death of Cranmer
A Clever Queen
Elizabeth's Lovers
Mary, Queen of Scots
Captivity of Mary Stuart
Wreck of the Spanish Armada
The Elizabethan Age
Death of Elizabeth
A Scotch King
The Gunpowder Plot
Sir Walter Raleigh
King and Parliament
Cavaliers and Roundheads
The Royal Oak
The Commonwealth
The Restoration
Plague and Fire
The Merry Monarch
James driven out of England
A Terrible Massacre
William's Wars
The Duke of Marlborough
The Taking of Gibraltar
The South Sea Bubble
Bonny Prince Charlie
Black Hole of Calcutta
Loss of the Colonies
The Battle of the Nile
Nelson's Last Signal
The Battle of Waterloo
First Gentleman of Europe
Childhood of Queen Victoria
The Queen's Marriage
Wars in Victoria's Reign
The Jubilee