Regicide - Encyclopedia

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REGICIDE (Lat. rex, a king, and caedere, to kill), the name given to any one who kills a sovereign. Regicides is the name given in English history at the Restoration of 1660 to those persons who were responsible for the execution of Charles I. On the 4th of April 1660 Charles II. in the Declaration of Breda promised a free pardon to all his subjects "excepting only such persons as shall hereafter be excepted by parliament," and on the 14th of May the House of Commons ordered the immediate arrest of "all those persons who sat in judgment upon the late king's majesty when sentence was pronounced." The number of regicides was estimated at 84, this number being composed of the 67 present at the last sitting of the court of justice, 11 others who had attended earlier sittings, 4 officers of the court and the 2 executioners. Many of them were arrested or surrendered themselves, and the House of Commons in considering the proposed bill of indemnity suggested that only twelve of the regicides, who were named, should forfeit their lives; but the House of Lords urged that all the king's judges, with three exceptions, and some others, should be treated in this way.

Eventually a compromise was agreed upon, and the bill as passed on the 29th of August 1660 divided the regicides into six classes for punishment: (1) Four of them, although dead - Cromwell, Ireton, Bradshaw and Pride - were to be attainted for high treason. (2) The estates of twenty others, also dead, were to be subjected to fine or forfeiture. (3) Thirty living regicides were excepted from all indemnity. (4) Nineteen living regicides were also excepted, but with a saving clause that their execution was to be suspended until a special act of parliament was passed for this purpose. (5) Six others were to be punished, but not capitally. (6) Two, Colonels Hutchinson and Thomas Lister, were simply declared incapable of holding any office. Two regicides - Ingoldsby, who declared he had only signed the warrant under compulsion, and Colonel Matthew Thomlinson - escaped without punishment. A court of thirty-four commissioners was then appointed to try the regicides, and the trial took place in October 1660. Twenty-nine were condemned to death, but only ten were actually executed, the remaining nineteen with six others being imprisoned for life. The ten who were executed at Charing Cross or Tyburn, London, in October 1660, were Thomas Harrison, John Jones, Adrian Scrope, John Carew, Thomas Scot, and Gregory Clement, who had signed the death-warrant; the preacher Hugh Peters; Francis Hacker and Daniel Axtel, who commanded the soldiers at the trial and the execution of the king; and John Cook, the solicitor who directed the prosecution. In January 1661 the bodies of Cromwell, Ireton, and Bradshaw were exhumed and hanged at Tyburn, but Pride's does not appear to have been treated in this way. Of the nineteen or twenty regicides who had escaped and were living abroad, three, Sir John Barkstead, John Okey and Miles Corbet, were arrested in Holland and executed in London in April 1662; and one, John Lisle; was murdered at Lausanne. The last survivor of the regicides was probably Edmund Ludlow, who died at Vevey in 1692.

Ludlow's Memoirs, edited by C. H. Firth (Oxford, 1894), give interesting details about the regicides in exile. See also D. Masson, Life of Milton, vol. vi. (1880), and M. Noble, Lives of the English Regicides (1198). (A. W. H.*)

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