In January 1649, after years of civil war, King Charles I stood trial in a specially convened English court on charges of treason, murder, and other high crimes against his people. Not only did the revolutionary tribunal find him guilty and order his death, but its masters then abolished monarchy itself and embarked on a bold (though short-lived) republican experiment. The event was a landmark in legal history. The trial and execution of King Charles marked a watershed in English politics and political theory and thus also affected subsequent developments in those parts of the world colonized by the British.
This book presents a selection of contemporaries’ accounts of the king’s trial and their reactions to it, as well as a report of the trial of the king’s own judges once the wheel of fortune turned and monarchy was restored. It uses the words of people directly involved to offer insight into the causes and consequences of these momentous events.
About the author
K.J. Kesselring is Professor of History and Associate Dean, Academic, at Dalhousie University. She is the author of The Northern Rebellion of 1569 and Mercy and Authority in the Tudor State, and the co-editor with Tim Stretton of Married Women and the Law: Coverture in England and the Common Law World.
“The trial of Charles I is one of the most important events in British history, and the documentary evidence surrounding it is thrilling and evocative. This wonderful new edition offers not just the colour but also the complexity of the surviving sources; it reveals the contested nature of the events themselves, as well as ongoing debates about their meaning and significance. In addition to the amazing record of the trial itself, we are presented with neglected evidence about how profoundly the king’s death affected even the most radical of contemporary commentators. As such, the book casts new and genuinely thought-provoking light on these momentous events.” — Jason Peacey, University College London
“This compendium of primary sources provides an indispensable teaching resource for studying the trial of Charles I. Kesselring’s contextual introduction guides the reader through recent controversies among historians over how to interpret the trial, while providing a list of penetrating questions to stimulate enquiry and debate. The volume’s strength lies in the different perspectives offered by its selected texts; its inclusion of an account of the regicide Thomas Harrison’s trial invites readers to explore further comparative dimensions.” — Andrew Hopper, University of Leicester