Thursday, April 13, 2017

Horace Walpole's copy of the death warrant of King Charles I

This is likely the Walpole copy from Strawberry Hill, now in the Milton collection of the Yuko Nii Foundation:


























In his home Horace Walpole hung a copy of the warrant for the execution of Charles I with the inscription "Major Charta" and wrote of "the least bad of all murders, that of a King". In 1756, he wrote:
 I am sensible that from the prostitution of patriotism, from the art of ministers who have had the address to exalt the semblance while they depressed the reality of royalty, and from the bent of the education of the young nobility, which verges to French maxims and to a military spirit, nay, from the ascendant which the nobility itself acquires each day in this country, from all these reflections, I am sensible, that prerogative and power have been exceedingly fortified of late within the circle of the palace; and though fluctuating ministers by turns exercise the deposit, yet there it is; and whenever a prince of design and spirit shall sit in the regal chair, he will find a bank, a hoard of power, which he may lay off most fatally against this constitution. [I am] a quiet republican, who does not dislike to see the shadow of monarchy, like Banquo's ghost, fill the empty chair of state, that the ambitious, the murderer, the tyrant, may not aspire to it; in short, who approves the name of a King, when it excludes the essence.
Ketton-Cremer, R.W. (1964). Horace Walpole: A Biography. London: Methuen. p. 127.
The warrant itself reads as follows:
At the high Court of Justice for the tryinge and iudginge of Charles Steuart Kinge of England January xxixth Anno Dñi 1648.
Whereas Charles Steuart Kinge of England is and standeth convicted attaynted and condemned of High Treason and other high Crymes, And sentence uppon Saturday last was pronounced against him by this Court to be putt to death by the severinge of his head from his body Of wch sentence execucon yet remayneth to be done, These are therefore to will and require you to see the said sentence executed In the open Streete before Whitehall uppon the morrowe being the Thirtieth day of this instante moneth of January betweene the houres of Tenn in the morninge and Five in the afternoone of the same day wth full effect And for soe doing this shall be yor sufficient warrant And these are to require All Officers and Souldiers and other the good people of this Nation of England to be assistinge unto you in this Service
Given under our hands and Seales
To Colonell Ffrancis Hacker, Colonell Huncks and Lieutenant Colonell Phayre and to every of them
John Milton's name does not appear on the Warrant.  Cromwell's signature - "O. Cromwell" - is found on the left, in the first column, third line down.

Source: Wikipedia. Images: the Yuko Nii Foundation.

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