35. Death Of Charles I, A.D. 1649—1651
The Long Parliament did not wish to have no king, only to make him do what they pleased; and then went on trying whether he would come back to reign according to their notions. He would have given up a great deal, but when they wanted him to declare that there should be no bishops in England he would never consent, for he thought there could be no real Church without bishops, as our Lord himself had appointed.
At last, after there had been much debating, and it was plain that it would never come to an end, Oliver Cromwell sent some of his officers to take King Charles into their hands, instead of the persons appointed by Parliament. So the king was prisoner to the army instead of to the parliament.
Cromwell was a very able man, and he saw that nobody could settle the difficulties about the law and the rights of the people but himself. He saw that things never would be settled while the king lived, nor by the Parliament, so he sent one of his officers, named Pryde, to turnout all the members of Parliament who would not do his will, and then the fifty who were left appointed a court of officers and lawyers to try the king. Charles was brought before them; but, as they had no right to try him, he would not say a word in answer to them. Nevertheless, they sentenced him to have his head cut off. He had borne all his troubles in the most meek and patient way, forgiving all his enemies and praying for them: and he was ready to die in the same temper. His queen was in France, and all his children were safe out of England, except his daughter Elizabeth, who was twelve years old, and little Henry, who was five. They were brought to Whitehall Palace for him to see the night before he was to die. He took the little boy on his knee, and talked a long time to Elizabeth, telling her what books to read and giving her his message to her mother and brothers; and then he told little Henry to mark what he said, and to mind that he must never be set up as a king while his elder brothers, Charles and James were alive. The little boy said through his tears, "I will be torn to pieces first." His father kissed and blessed the two children, and left them.
The next day was the 30th of January, 1649. The king was allowed to have Bishop Juxon to read and pray with him, and to give him the holy communion. After that, forgiving his enemies and praying for them, he was led to the Banqueting House at Whitehall, and out through a window, on to the scaffold hung with black cloth. He said his last prayers, and the executioner cut off his head with one blow, and held it up to the people. He was buried at night,—a light snow falling at the time,—in St. George's Chapel at Windsor, by four faithful noblemen, but they were not allowed to use any service over his grave.
The Scots were so much shocked to find what their selling of their king had come to, that they invited his eldest son, Charles, a young man of nineteen, to come and reign over them, and offered to set him on the English throne again. Young Charles came; but they were so strict that they made his life very dull and weary, since they saw sin in every amusement. However, they kept their promise of marching into England, and some of the English cavaliers joined them; but Oliver Cromwell and his army met them at Worcester, and they were entirely beaten. Young King Charles had to go away with a few gentlemen, and he was so closely followed that they had to put him in charge of some woodmen named Penderel, who lived in Boscobel Forest. They dressed him in a rough leather suit like their own, and when the Roundhead soldiers came to search, he was hidden among the branches of an oak tree above their heads. Afterwards, a lady named Jane Lane helped him over another part of his journey, by letting him ride on horseback before her as her servant; but, when she stopped at an inn, he was very near being found out, because he did not know how to turn the spit in the kitchen when the cook asked him. However, he got safely to Brighton, which was only a little village then, and a boat took him to France, where his mother was living.
In the meantime, his young sister and brother, Elizabeth and Henry, had been sent to the Isle of Wight, to Carisbrook Castle. Elizabeth was pining away with sorrow, and before long she was found dead, with her cheek resting on her open Bible. After this, little Henry was sent to be with his mother in France.
The eldest daughter, Mary, had been married just as the war began to the Prince of Orange, who lived in Holland, and was left a widow with one little son. James, Duke of York, the second brother, had at first been in the keeping of a Parliamentary nobleman, with his brother and sister, in London; but, during a game of hide-and-seek, he crept out of the gardens and met some friends, who dressed him in girls' clothes and took him to a ship in the Thames, which carried him to Holland. Little Henrietta, the youngest, had been left, when only six weeks old, to the care of one of her mother's ladies. When she was nearly three, the lady did not think it safe to keep her any longer in England. So she stained her face and hands brown with walnut juice, to look like a gipsy, took the child upon her back, and trudged to the coast.
Little Henrietta could not speak plain, but she always called herself by a name she meant to be princess, and the lady was obliged to call her Piers, and pretend that she was a little boy, when the poor child grew angry at being treated so differently from usual, and did all she possibly could to make the strangers understand that she was no beggar boy. However, at last she was safe across the sea, and was with her mother at Paris, where the king of France, Queen Henrietta's nephew, was very kind to the poor exiles. The misfortune was, that the queen brought up little Henrietta as a Roman Catholic, and tried to make Henry one also; but he was old enough to be firm to his father's Church, and he went away to his sister in Holland. James, however did somewhat late become a Roman Catholic; and Charles would have been one, if he had cared enough about religion to do what would have lessened his chance of getting back to England as king. But these two brothers were learning no good at Paris, and were growing careless of the right and fond of pleasure. James and Henry, after a time, joined the French army, that they might learn the art of war. They were both very brave, but it was sad that when France and England went to war, they should be in the army of the enemies of their country.