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On Monday morning, March the 22nd, at seven o'clock, Strafford was brought from the Tower, with a procession of barges, containing one hundred soldiers. Landing at Westminster, he was conducted to the hall by two hundred of the trained band, all the avenues to the place being guarded by constables and watchmen from before daylight. Charles I., the queen, and the prince, came about nine o'clock, and sat in the inclosed cabinets, where they were scarcely seen and little noticed. The king had expressly forbidden that the axe should be carried before Strafford, as was common on such occasions; so he appeared in the dock withcut that appendage to the ceremonial of a trial for treason. The whole of the first day was employed in reading the impeachment, the king and prince staying all the time. Day after day the trial went on, the interest in it increasing, and public opinion becoming divided. Pym was the chief conductor of the prosecution, and employed all his abilities against the accused. The royal family attended; and the king, we are told, inpatient at having his view and hearing interrupted by the trellice-work put up before his closet for secrecy, tore it away with his own hands, and thus became visible to the assembly. The courtiers were on the side of Strafford, and so were the ladies generally, being touched by his gallant bearing, his handsomeness, grace, and eloquence. There they were, writing down notes day after day, and earnestly debating points of law and fact as they arose on the trial. We cannot say much for the gravity and decorum of some of the gentlemen who were present. Baillie tells us that after ten o'clock there was much public eating, not only of confections, but of flesh and bread, bottles of beer and wine going thick from mouth to mouth without cups, and all this before the king's eyes.
After weeks spent in adducing evidence and arguments in support of the charge of high treason, Strafford was allowed to make his defence, which was certainly most able and eloquent. One part of it is well known, but must be related here among the memorable echoes of the old hall. The children of the prisoner were at hand during the trial, and pointing to them with tears, the prisoner exclaimed : “My lords, I have troubled you longer than I should have done, were it not for the interest of these dear pledges a saint in heaven hath left
What I forfeit myself is nothing ; but that my indiscretion should descend to my posterity, woundeth me to the very soul. You will pardon my infirmity : something I should have added, but am not able; therefore let it pass. And now, my lords, for myself I have been, by the blessing of Almighty God, taught that the afflictions of this present life are not to be compared to the eternal weight of glory which shall be revealed hereafter. And so, my lords, even so I freely submit myself to your judgment, and whether that judgment be of life or death—'Te Deum laudamus.'"3
The bill of attainder passed the Commons on the 21st of April, and on the 7th of May it passed the Lords. Strafford appealed to the king; but
the royal assent was given to the bill on the roth of May. Charles made a feeble appeal by letter on his behalf to the House of Lords, asking that Strafford's life might be spared, “if it might be done without the discontent of his people;" adding in a postscript, "If he must die, it were charity to reprieve him till Saturday.". Neither request was complied with; and the king said, “What I intended by my letter was with an if it might be done with contentment to my people. If that cannot be," he added, “I say again, Fiat justitia.” My other intention proceeding out of charity for a few days' respite, was upon certain information that his estate was so distracted, that it necessarily required some days for settlement.” On the 12th Strafford perished on the scaffold.
That Westminster Hall tragedy was not long after followed by another. Charles himself was arraigned at the bar. Into anything beyond the incidents of the trial we do not purpose entering. A high court of justice was appointed for the occasion, consisting of one hundred and twentyfive commissioners, of whom not more than eighty assembled at one time. Serjeant Bradshaw was voted president, under the title of “ Lord President.” The hall was specially fitted up for the occasion At the further end sat the commissioners in rows, with high-crowned hats and cloaks. On each side were galleries for spectators. In the front of the commissioners, on an elevated platform, sat Bradshaw, with John Lisle and William Say as assistants.
“He was afraid," it is said, "of some tumult, upon such new and unprecedented insolence as that of sitting judge upon his king; and therefore, besides other defence, he had a thick, big-crowned beaver hat, lined with plated steel, to ward off blows." The liat, with a Latin inscription on it, is now to be seen in the museum at Oxford.
Immediately before the Lord President was a long table, at which sat the clerks of the court, the mace and sword lying on the table. A chair was provided for the king within the bar, and at his right hand stood three councillors, to conduct the prosecution in the name of the Commonwealth. Royal banners, taken at Naseby, were hanging as parliamentary trophies over the head of the royal captive. The great door was thrown open for the admission of the people, and the hall was everywhere well guarded by soldiers.
On the 8th of January, the commissioners had marched to their places, amidst beating of drums and sound of trumpets, to make proclamation of the opening of proceedings. On the 19th the king had been brought from Windsor, and on the 20th he was conveyed, in a' sedan chair, to the bar, where he took his seat on a chair covered with velvet. He looked sternly on the people and the court without moving his hat. They returned like looks, and continued to sit covered. Bradshaw stated the cause of the trial. Coke, as leading counsel, stood up to speak, when Charles cried, “Hold, hold !” at the same time touching him on the shoulder with his cane, the gold head of which
dropped off as he was doing it-an ominous incident, to be coupled with the blowing down of the royal standard when first raised at Nottingham. The clerk began to read the indictment, when the king again cried “Hold !" but at the order of the president the clerk went on, “the king looking sometimes on the high court, sometimes up to the galleries; and having arisen again and turned about to behold the guards and spectators, sat down again, looking very sternly, and with a countenance not at all moved till the words naming *Charles Stuart to be a tyrant and traitor,' were read, at which he laughed as he sat, in the face of the Court.”
The whole being finished, the king demanded the authority of the Court, the illegal constitution of which was the point he insisted upon throughout. He refused to plead before such a tribunal. Beyond that preliminary they could not get him to advance. After adjournments and resittings, and the hearing of witnesses in the Painted Chamber—the king all the while declining to acknowledge the jurisdiction of the parties who had summoned him to the bar-on the seventh day, the high court of justice sat for the last time. President Bradshaw had then changed his black robe for a red one, and the other commissioners appeared in their best habits. The king-amidst cries from the soldiers and people, of “ Justice, justice ! execution, execution !"-sat down in his chair, still with his hat on. The appearance of things betokened the ap