On This Day…

… in 1649 King Charles I of England was beheaded for treason by order of Parliament, under the direction of the leader of the Puritan Revolution, Oliver Cromwell.

This was a key outcome of the English Civil War, which was itself in fact a series of armed conflicts and political manoeuvres between Parliamentarians (‘Roundheads’) and Royalists (‘Cavaliers’) over the way in which the country was governed.

The first and second wars (lasting from 1642 to 1649, with a two-year lull between 1648 and ’48) were between the supporters of King Charles I and the supporters of the Long Parliament*. The third war (1649-51) was between supporters of Charles I’s son, Charles II, and supporters of the Rump Parliament**.

All in all, the outcome of the English Civil War was threefold: the trial and execution of Charles I (this was a huge deal – putting a monarch on trial was unheard of before this!), the exile of his son, and then the replacement of the English monarch with the Commonwealth of England (1649-53) and then the Protectorate (1653-59), under Oliver Cromwell’s personal rule. The Civil War ultimately set a precedent that exists to this day – that an English monarch can’t govern without Parliament’s consent.

King Charles I

King Charles I

*The Long Parliament: Charles I summoned the Long Parliament (so named to distinguish it from the ‘Short Parliament’ he called before it), as only Parliament could raise the money he needed to wage the second Bishop’s War against Scotland (but I digress…). Crucially, the majority of Long Parliament members were keen to begin the process of limiting the King’s autocratic and arbitrary use of his powers.

**The Rump Parliament: This Parliament was called after the Long Parliament was purged in 1648 of all members who supported Charles I – or at least were against the plan to try him for high treason.

 

 

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