Inside and Outside the Court of the Trial of King Charles I

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In studying the the hasty trial of King Charles I, students may find themselves either supporting the actions and authority of the High Court of Justice while others seek to defend the lawful monarch. There have been many arguments made for King Charles I. While I believe that his ability to adequately defend himself in the High Court of Justice was thwarted, some arguments were presented there as well as in sources outside the Court in documents such as the Six Serious Quaeries Concerning the Kings Triall by the New High Court of Justice and His Majesties Against the Pretended Jurisdiction of the High Court of Justice. Drawing from these sources, I will present arguments in defense of the lawful monarch King Charles I in addition to arguments drawn from the account presented in Kesselring’s The Trial of Charles I inside the Court.

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Numerous times throughout the trial of King Charles I, he asked the Court to allow him to explain his reasons why he could not enter a plea and therefore recognize the legitimacy of the Court. After expressing his wish to show his reasons, Lord Bradshaw who was presiding over the trial told the king that his “reasons are not to be heard against the highest jurisdiction.”[footnoteRef:0] Not long after this exchange, Lord Bradshaw ordered the guard to take custody of the King and he was brought back to the home of Sir Robert Cotton where he was staying.[footnoteRef:1] [0: ] [1: ]

Prompted by the frequent interruptions of the Lord President and his being prohibited to fully explain his reasons, King Charles I wrote His Majesties Reasons Against the Pretended Jurisdiction of the High Court of Justice “which he intended to deliver in writing on Monday, January 22. 1648.”[footnoteRef:2] The King explained that, “This I intended to speak in Westminster-Hall on Monday 22. January, but against reason was hindered to show my reasons.”[footnoteRef:3] [2: ] [3: ]

Throughout the duration of this trial, outside and inside the Court, King Charles I makes reference to God and to how his allegiance to God forbid him to recognize an illegitimate Court with a plea. This argument can be found when Charles says in Court that, “...I do acknowledge to God, that I owe to Him and to my people, to defend as much as in me lies the ancient laws of the kingdom. Therefore until that I may know that his is not against the fundamental laws of the kingdom, by your favour, I can put in no particular answer.”[footnoteRef:4] To explain the words of the King, his duty to God who has entrusted him with the laws of England cannot defer to the jurisdiction of a Court that violates the laws with which he was entrusted. In proving this point, Charles makes further note of God’s commands, writing that “the authority of obedience unto Kings is clearly warranted and strictly commanded both in the Old and new Testament.”[footnoteRef:5] [4: ] [5: ]

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