Sean Kelsey reconsiders the events of January 1649 and argues the trial was skilfully appropriated by rump politicians in paving the way for the new Commonwealth.
The trial of Charles I stands out as probably one of the most remarkable, certainly one of the most dramatic events in the early modern history of the British Isles. It is best known as the gripping first scene of the fifth act in the tragedy of a doomed king. Charles was notoriously shy of the public arena. Yet in this, his darkest hour, he turned in the finest performance of his entire career. Famously, he overcame a life-long speech impediment to castigate his accusers in tones which ring down the ages: 'I do stand more for the liberty of my subjects than any that come here to be my pretended judges,' he declared.