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What the Regicides Did For Us

Far from being the bogeymen of history, Geoffrey Robertson QC says that the English regicides were men of principle who established our modern freedoms.

A plate depicting the Trial of Charles I in January 1649, from John Nalson's "Record of the Trial of Charles I, 1688" in the British Museum.
A plate depicting the Trial of Charles I in January 1649, from John Nalson's "Record of the Trial of Charles I, 1688" in the British Museum.

The proceeding against Charles i in 1649 secured the constitutional gains of the Civil War – the supremacy of Parliament, the independence of judges, individual freedom guaranteed by Magna Carta and the common law. But they brought little fame to those who presided over the trial and signed the King’s death warrant. Apart from Cromwell (who later became king in all but name) the regicides are not portrayed on statues or stamps, and their fate is seldom mourned: in 1660, after a rigged trial at the Old Bailey, their heads were stuck on poles and their body parts fed to the stray dogs of Aldgate. British liberty is usually dated from the ‘glorious revolution’ of 1688-89, but forty years earlier the House of Commons had declared 1649 to be ‘The first year of freedom, by God’s blessing restored’.

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