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The day of Charles I's execution

Outside the Banqueting House, on the pavement of Whitehall, is the site of Charles I's execution on 30 January 1649.

Though the wooden staging erected for the execution has long been dismantled, you can imagine the scene on that cold winter's day...

Charles I had lost the Civil War. His enemies convicted him of high treason and decided that execution would be his fate.

On the day of the execution Charles said goodbye to his children at St James's Palace before being escorted to the Banqueting House.

It was bitterly cold. Charles wore a second shirt so as not to shiver from the cold, in case it was misunderstood as trembling from fear.

He was also persuaded to eat a little bread and drink a glass of claret so that he would not faint before reaching the execution block.

The mysterious executioners

After Charles's trial and condemnation the execution axe was brought from the Tower of London.

The usual waist-high execution block could not be found and a much lower one was brought to Whitehall. This block was normally used for dismembering the bodies of traitors.

The public executioner, a man called Brandon, refused to undertake his duty and his assistant could not be found. Their places were eventually taken by two men in disguise whose identities remain unknown to this day.

Famous last words

Charles was led out of an upper window onto a temporary scaffold stage especially erected on Whitehall. He was composed on the scaffold and died with dignity.

Charles I’s famous last words contributed to his later cult status as a royal martyr.

The execution of King Charles I is remembered each year on 30 January with a service in the Banqueting House.

I go from a corruptible to an incorruptible Crown, where no disturbance can be.

King Charles I.

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