BETA

THE TRIAL OF CHARLES THE FIRST.

AN HISTORICAL SCENE.

CHARACTERS.

Charles the First, King of England .
} Members of the High Court of
Justice
.
Lord President Bradshaw,
Cromwell,
Ireton,
Downes,
Harrison,
Marten,
Cook, the Solicitor for the Commons .
Clerk , Crier , Guards , and People .
Henrietta, Queen of England .
Scene.—Westminster Hall, fitted up for the King’s trial, Brad-
shaw
seated as President ; Cromwell, Ireton, Harrison, Downes, Marten, and other Judges on benches ; Cook
and other Lawyers’ Clerks, &c. at a table ; a chair of state for
the King on one side ; the Queen veiled, and other Ladies in
a gallery behind ; the whole stage filled with Guards, Spec-
tators, &c.
Brad.
Hath every name been call’d ? and every judge1
Appear’d the high summons ?2
Clerk.
Good my lord,3
Each one hath answer’d.4
Ireton.
(to Crom.)
The Lord General5
Is wanting still.6
Crom.
The better.7
Ireton.
How ?8
Crom.
Fair son,9
We have enow of work—doth not yon cry10
Announce the prisoner ?— enow of work11
For one brief day, without him. Downes, sit here12
Beside me, man. We lack not waverers ;13
Men, whose long doubts would hold from rosy dawn14
To the slow lighting of the evening star15
In the clear heaven of June. Of such as they16
One were too many. How say’st thou, good Downes ?17
Downes.
Even as thou say’st.18
Crom.
Yet, ’tis a valiant general,19
A godly and a valiant. Ha ! the prisoner !20
Enter the King, attended by Herbert and other Ser-
vants, Hacker, and Guards. The Soldiers, &c. as the
King walks to his chair, cry Justice ! Justice !”
Crier.
Peace !  Silence in the court !21
Brad.
Ye shall have justice,22
My Lords Commissioners, whilst I stood pausing23
How fitliest to disclose our mighty plea,24
Dallying with phrase and form, yon eager cry25
Shot like an arrow to the mark, laying bare26
The very core of our intent. Sirs, we27
Are met to render justice, met to judge28
In such a cause as scarce the lucent sun,29
That smiles upon us from his throne, hath seen30
Since light was born. We sit to judge a king31
Arraign’d by his own people ; to make inquest32
Into the innocent blood which hath been spilt33
Like water ; into crime and tyranny,34
Treason and murder. Look that we be pure,35
My brethren ! that we cast from out our hearts36
All blinding passions :  Fear, that blinks and trembles37
At shadows ere they come ;  Pride, that walks dazzled38
In the light of her vain glory ;  feeble Pity,39
Whose sight is quenched in tears ; and grim Revenge,40
Her fierce eyes sealed with gore. Look that we chase41
Each frail affection, each fond hidden sin,42
Each meaner virtue from our hearts, and cling43
To justice, only justice. Now for thee,44
Charles Stuart, king of England !  Thou art here45
To render compt of awful crimes, of treason,46
Conspiracy, and murder. Answer !47
Cook.
First,48
May it please you, hear the charge.49
King.
Stop ! who are ye50
That dare to question me ?51
Brad.
Thy judges.52
King.
Say53
My subjects. I am a king, whom none may judge54
On earth. Who sent you here ?55
Brad
The Commons.56
King.
What !57
Be there no traitors, no conspirators,58
No murderers, save kings that they dare call59
Stern justice down from Heaven ?  Sir, I fling back60
The charge upon their heads ; the guilt, the shame,61
The eternal infamy—on them, who sowed62
The tares of hate in fields of love ; who armed63
Brother ’g ainst brother ; breaking the sweet peace64
Of country innocence, the holy ties65
Of nature breaking ; making war accurst66
As that Egyptian plague, the worst and last,67
When the first-born were slain. I have no answer68
For them or you.—I know you not.69
Brad.
Be warned ;70
Plead to the accusation.71
King.
I will die72
A thousand deaths, rather than by my breath73
Give life to this new court, against the laws74
And liberties of England.75
Brad.
Sir, we know76
Your love of liberty and England. Call77
The witnesses. Be they in court ?78
Cook.
They wait79
Without.80
Brad.
Send for them quickly. Once again,81
King, wilt thou plead ?82
King.
Thou hast my answer—Never !83
[A pause of a few moments, during which the
head of the King’s staff, on which he was
leaning, falls, and rolls over the floor.
Marten.
(to Ireton).
What fell ?  The breathless
silence of this vast
84
And crowded court gives to each common sound85
A startling clearness. What hath fallen ?86
Ireton.
The head87
Of the king’s staff. See how it spins and bounds88
Along the floor, as hurrying to forsake89
The royal wretch its master : now it stops90
At Cromwell’s feet—direct at Cromwell’s feet !91
Crom.
The toy is broken.92
Har.
What is the device ?93
Some vain idolatrous image ?94
Crom.
No ; a crown—95
A guided crown—a hollow glittering crown,96
Shaped by some quaint and cunning goldsmith. Look97
On what a reed he leans, who props himself98
On such a bauble.99
Downes.
It rolled straight to thee :100
If thou wast superstitious—101
Crom.
Pass the toy—102
On the prisoner ; he hath faith in omens—103
I——fling him back his gewgaw !104
Brad.
Master Cook,105
We wait too long.106
Cook.
My lord, the witnesses—107
Brad.
Call any man !  Within our bleeding land108
There lives not one so blest in ignorance,109
As not to know this treason : none so high110
But the storm overtopp’d him ; none so low111
But the wind stoop’d to roct him up. Call any—112
The judge upon the bench—the halberdier113
That guards the door.114
Cook.
Oliver Cromwell !115
Crom.
Ay !116
Cook.
No need to swear him : he hath ta’en already117
The judge’s oath.118
Crom.
The judge’s oath, not this.119
Omit no form of guardian law ; remember120
The life of man hangs on our lips.121
King.
Smooth traitor !122
(Cromwell is sworn.)
Cook.
Lieutenant-general Cromwell, wast thou pre-
sent
123
In the great fight of Naseby ?124
Crom.
Was I present !125
Why, I think ye know that.126
Cook.
And didst thou see127
The prisoner in the battle ?128
Crom.
Many times.129
He led his army—in a better cause,130
I should have said right gallantly. I saw him131
First in the onset, last in the retreat ;132
That justice let me pay the king.133
Brad.
Raised he134
His banner ’g ainst his people ?  Didst thou see135
The royal standard in the field ?136
Crom.
My lord !137
It rose full in the centre of their host,138
Floating upon the heavy air.139
Cook.
The arms140
Of England ?141
Crom.
Ay, the very lion-shield142
That waved at Cressi and at Azincourt143
Triumphant. None may better know than I ;144
For it so pleased the Ruler of the field,145
The Almighty King of Battles ! that my arm146
Struck down the standard-bearer, and restored147
The English lion to the lion hearts148
Of England.149
Cook.
Please you, sir, retire. Now summon—150
King.
Call not another. What I have done boldly151
In the face of day and of the nation, that,152
Nothing repenting, nothing derogating153
From the king’s high prerogative ; as boldly154
As freely I avow to you—to all men !155
I own you not as judges !— Ye have power,156
As pirates or land-robbers o’er the wretch157
Entrapp’d within their den ; a power to mock158
Your victim with a form of trial—to dress159
Plain murder in a mask of law !— As judges,160
I know you not !161
Brad.
Enough, that you confess162
The treason.163
King.
Stop !  Sir, I appeal to them164
Whence you derive your power.165
Brad.
The people ?  King166
Thou seest them here in us.167
King.
Oh ! that my voice168
Could reach my loyal people ! that the wind169
Could waft the echoes of this groined roof,170
So that each corner of the land might hear171
Their rightful monarch’s cry !  Then should ye hear172
From the universal nation, town and plain,173
Forest and village, the stern, awful shout174
Of just deliverance, mighty and prolonged,175
Deafening the earth and piercing heaven, and smiting176
Each guilty conscience with such fear as waits177
On the great judgment-day. The wish is vain—178
Oh, vainer than a dream !  I and my people179
Are over-master’d. Yet, sir, I demand180
A conference with these monsters. Tell the Commons181
The King would speak with them.182
Brad.
We have no power183
To stay the trial.184
Downes.
Nay, good my lord, perchance185
The King would yield such reason as might move186
The Commons to renew the treaty. Best187
Confer with them.188
Crom.
(to Downes.)
Art mad ?189
Downes.
’Tis ye are mad190
That urge, with a remorseless haste, this work191
Of savage butchery onward. I was mad192
That join’d you.193
Crom.
This is sudden.194
Downes.
He’s our king.195
Crom.
Our king !  Have we not faced him in the
field
196
A hundred times ?  Our king !  Downes, hath the Lord197
Forsaken thee ?  Why, I have seen thyself198
Hewing through mailed battalions, till thy sword199
And thy good arm were dyed in gore, to reach200
Yon man. Didst mean to save him ?  Listen, sir !201
I am thy friend. ’Tis said—I lend no ear202
To slanderers, but this tale was forced upon me—203
’Tis said, that one, whose grave and honour’d name204
Sorts ill with midnight treachery, was seen205
Stealing from the Queen’s lodging. I’m thy friend,206
Thy fast friend !  We oft see in this bad world207
The shadow envy crawling stealthily208
Behind fair virtue. I hold all for false209
Unless thou prove it true. I am thy friend !—210
But if the sequestrators heard this tale—211
Thou hast broad lands. (Aloud) Why do ye pause ?212
Cook.
My high213
And honouring task to plead at this great bar214
For lawful liberty, for suffering conscience,215
For the old guardians of our rights, the Commons,216
Against the lawless fiend prerogative,217
The persecuting church, the tyrant king,218
Were needless, now, and vain. The haughty prisoner219
Denies your jurisdiction. I call on you220
For instant judgment.221
Brad.
Sir, for the last time,222
Task thee, wilt thou plead ?223
King.
Have I not answer’d ?224
Cook.
Your judgment, good my lords.225
Brad.
All ye who deem226
Charles Stuart guilty, rise !227
[The judges all stand up.
King.
What ! all ?228
Brad.
Not one229
Is wanting. Clerk, record him guilty.230
Cook.
Now,231
The sentence !232
Queen.
(from the gallery).
Traitors, hold !233
Crom.
(to Ireton.)
Heardst thou a scream ?234
Ireton.
’Tis the malignant wife of Fairfax.235
Crom.
No !236
A greater far than she.237
Queen.
Hold, murderers !238
Crom.
(aloud.)
Lead239
Yon railing woman from her seat. My lord,240
Please you proceed.241
Queen.
(rushing to the King).
Traitors, here is my
seat !
242
I am the Queen. Here is my place, my state !243
My lord and sovereign, here at thy feet244
I claim it with a prouder, humbler heart,245
A lowlier duty, and more loyal love,246
Than when the false and glittering diadem247
Encircled first my brows, a queenly bride.248
Put me not from thee ! scorn me not ! I am249
Thy wife.250
King.
A true and faithful wife ! yet leave me,251
Lest the strong armour of my soul, her patience,252
Be melted by thy tears. Oh, go, go, go !253
This is no place for thee.254
Queen.
Why, thou art here !255
Who shall divide us ?256
Ireton.
Force her from him, guards ;257
Remove her.258
King.
Tremble ye who come so near259
As but to touch her garments. Cowards ! slaves !260
Though the king’s power be gone, yet the man’s
strength
261
Remains unwither’d. She’s my wife, my all.262
Crom.
None thinks to harm the lady. Good my
lord,
263
The hour wears fast with these slight toys.264
Queen.
I come265
To aid you, not impede. If in this land266
To wear the lineal crown, maintain the laws,267
Uphold the insulted church, be crimes, then I268
Am guilty, guiltier than your king. ’Twas I269
That urged the war—ye knew he loved me—I270
That prompted his bold counsels, edged and whetted271
His great resolves ; spurr’d his high courage on272
Against you, rebels !  I that arm’d my knight273
And sent him forth to battle. Mine the crime ;274
Be mine the punishment !  Deliver him,275
And lead me to the block. Pause ye ? my blood276
Is royal too. Within my veins the rich277
Commingled stream of princely Medici278
And regal Bourbon flows : ’t will mount as high ;279
’T will stain your axe as red ; ’t will feed as full280
Your hate of kings.281
Crom.
Madam, we wage no war282
On women.283
Queen.
I have warr’d on you—and now—284
Take heed how ye release me !  He is gentle,285
Patient, and kind ; he can forgive. But I286
Shall roam a frantic widow through the world,287
Counting each day for lost that hath not gain’d288
An enemy to England, a revenger289
Of this foul murder.290
Har.
Woman, peace !  The sentence !291
Queen.
Your sentence, bloody Judges !  As ye deal292
With your anointed king, the red right arm293
Of Heaven shall avenge him : here on earth294
By clinging fear and black remorse, and death,295
Unnatural, ghastly death !— and then the fire—296
The eternal fire—where panting murderers gasp,297
And cannot die !— that deepest hell which holds298
The regicide.299
Brad.
Peace ! I have overlong300
Forgotten my great office. Hence ! or force301
Shall rid us of thy frenzy. Know’st thou not302
That curses light upon the curser’s head,303
As surely as the cloud which the sun drains304
From the salt sea returns into the wave305
In stormy gusts or plashing showers ?— Remove her.306
Queen.
Oh ! mercy ! merey !— I’ll not curse ; I’ll be307
As gentle as a babe. Ye cannot doom him308
Whilst I stand by. Even the hard headsman veils309
His victim’s eyes before he strikes, afeard310
Lest his heart fail ; and could ye, being men,311
Not fiends, abide a wife’s keen agony312
Whilst—I’ll not leave thee, Charles !  I’ll never
leave thee !
313
King.
This is the love stronger than life—the love314
Of woman. Henrietta, listen !  Loose315
Thy arms from round my neck !— Here is no axe—316
This is no scaffold.—We shall meet anon,317
Untouch’d, unharm’d. I shall return to thee318
Safe, safe—shall bide with thee.—Listen, my dear one !319
Thy husband prays, thy king commands thee—Go !320
Go !— Lead her gently, very gently.321
[Exit the Queen, led.

Now322
I am ready. Speak your doom, and quickly.323
Brad.
Death !324
Thou art adjudged to die. Sirs, do ye all325
Accord in this just sentence ?326
[The judges all stand up.
King.
I am ready.327
To a grey head aching with royal cares328
The block is a kind pillow. Yet once more——329
Brad.
Silence !— The sentence is pronounced—the time330
Is past. Conduct him from the court.331
King.
Not hear me !332
Me, your anointed king !  Look ye what justice333
A meaner man may hope for.334
Crom.
Why refuse335
His death-speech to a prisoner ?  Whoso knoweth336
What weight hangs on his soul !  Speak on, and fear
not.
337
King.
Fear ! let the guilty fear. Feel if my pulse338
Flutter? Look if my cheek be faded ?  Hearken339
If my calm breathing be not regular,340
Even as an infant’s who hath dropt asleep341
Upon its mother’s breast ?  As I lift up342
This sword, miscall’d of justice, my clear voice343
Hoarsens nor falters not. See, I can smile344
As, thinking on the axe, I draw the bright,345
Keen edge across my hand. Fear !  Would ye ask346
What weight is on my soul—I tell you, none ;347
Save that I yielded once to your decree,348
And slew my faithfullest—Oh !  Strafford, Strafford !349
This is a retribution.350
Brad.
Rather weep351
Thy sins, than one just, holy act.352
King.
For you,353
My subject judges, I could weep ; for thee,354
Beloved and lovely country. Thou wilt groan355
Under the tyrant many, till some bold356
And crafty soldier, one who in the field357
Is brave as the roused lion, at the council358
Watchful and gentle as the couchant pard—359
The lovely, spotted pard—what time she stoops360
To spring upon her prey ; one who puts on361
To win each several soul his several sin :362
A stern fanatic—a smooth hypocrite—363
A fierce republican—a coarse buffoon—364
Always a great, bad man—till he shall come365
And climb the vacant throne, and fix him there,366
A more than king. Cromwell, if such thou knowest,367
Tell him the rack would prove an easier couch368
Than he shall find that throne ; tell him the crown369
On a usurper’s brow will scorch and burn370
As though the diamonded and ermined round371
Were formed of glowing steel.372
Crom.
Hath this dread wrath373
Smitten thee with frenzy ?374
King.
Tell him, for thou know’st him,375
That Doubt and Discord, like fell harpies, wait376
Around the usurper’s board. By night, by day,377
Beneath the palace roof—beneath that roof378
More fair, the summer sky—fear shall appal379
And danger threaten, and all natural loves380
Whither and die ; till, on his dying bed,381
Old ’f ore his time, the wretched traitor lies382
Heart-broken. Then, for well thou know’st him,
Cromwell,
383
Bid him to think on me, and how I fell,384
Hewn in my strength and prime, like a proud oak,385
The tallest of the forest, that but shivers386
His glorious top, and dies. Oh ! thou shalt envy387
In thy long agony my fall, that shakes388
A kingdom, but not me.389
Crom.
He is possess’d !—390
My good Lord President the day wears on—391
Possess’d of a fierce devil.392
Brad.
Lead him forth !393
King.
Lead on !— ye are warned. Lead to my pri-
son sirs !
394
On to my prison !395
Soldiers, &c.
cry—
On to execution ! justice and
execution !”
396
Crom.
Nay, my comrades,397
Vex not a sinner’s parting hour. The wrath398
Of God is on him !399
[Exeunt.