Execution of Charles I

Execution of Charles I

Execution of Charles

The Banqueting House is probably most famous as the site of the execution of King Charles I.

Sentenced to death

In 1649, after years of struggle between the authority of Parliament and the power of the King, which culminated in the Civil War (1642-9), Charles I was found guilty of treason and sentenced to death.

After his trial and condemnation carpenters began setting up a scaffold against the walls of the Banqueting House.

A grim procession

At 10 o'clock in the morning on 30 January a grim procession set off from St James's Palace to Whitehall, the King surrounded by an escort of halberdiers.

At the appointed hour he was led out through the galleries of the palace and into the Banqueting House.

From here he stepped directly on to the scaffold from an upstairs window, specially removed for the occasion. Although the King was hidden from the majority of the crowd by black drapery, neighbouring rooftops were thronged with spectators.

Iron staples had been hammered into the floor for ropes to restrain the prisoner should force be necessary.

The King’s final speech

Finding it impossible to address the crowd, the King spoke to those about him on the scaffold including shorthand reporters who were able to record his final speech.

He asserted at length the principles for which he was to die and his personal loyalty to the Church of England.

His last words were 'I go from a corruptible to an incorruptible Crown, where no disturbance can be.'

The execution

Then the King took off his cloak, giving it to Bishop Juxon, the Bishop of London, and laid his head upon the block.

After a little pause, stretching forth his hands, the Executioner at one blow severed his head from his body.