I Met The King
January 30, 1648
Based on a true account from the English Civil War...
The rhythmic rustle of bodies moving in unison was just audible above the low buzz of onlookers. A few officers walked with him followed by a private guard of partisans. Musketeers paraded on each side. To see him without his vestments was a most uncommon sight. Yet, even in this informality, Charles still was King. His gait had a purpose as he crossed the courtyard from the banqueting house at St. James to Whitehall-Gate.
Head held high, he stepped onto the stage where we stood. Periodically, the majestic black linen, draped around us, lifted gently with a freezing gust carrying the mists of England as if blown by the breath of some great unseen nostrils. Our civil war was ending which had pitted Monarch against Parliament, the two great powers of England. What would he have to say to these, his subjects? Some despised him; some admired him; but all came for a glimpse of their King?
Burdened with the tools of my trade, I felt so out of place on the same scaffolding with the King. I wondered how he had come to be here. But, then, one of my estate need not consider such things. I stood where I did only because my lot had been drawn from among so many others that could have come in my stead. Providence had provided me this rare opportunity to meet Royalty. On the platform stood the great men of England. The closest I had come to these men was pronouncing their names.
A vast crowd filled the street, but they kept their distance. Companies of foot soldiers and troops of horsemen stood at attention on either side…a grand show. He looked across the sea of faces of men, women, and children.
"I think it is my duty to God first and to my country to clear myself both as an honest man, a good King, and a good Christian. All the world knows that I did not begin this War with the two Houses of Parliament. And I call God to witness that I never did intend to encroach upon their privileges. Anyone considering the commissions will see clearly that they began these unhappy troubles, not I. Still, I hope that they are free of guilt. I ask God, with St. Stephen, that this be not laid to their charge; for I do believe that ill instruments between them and me have been the chief cause of all this bloodshed. Yet may I never be so ill a Christian as to say that God's judgments upon me are not just."
The King spoke earnestly to the men with him--not to the crowds, now. But all eyes in the courtyard focused on him...on us...on me. Fearing my heart's pounding would interrupt His Majesty, I carefully inched back into the others about King Charles.
When he interrupted his conversing and glanced my way, my breath caught and I froze in place; I had disturbed the King! He gazed into my eyes, and smiled sadly before turning back to one of the men. "I must show you an error in your way. If you find anything, it is by way of conquest. Certainly this is an ill way, for conquest is never right, except that there be a good just cause. And there is still the chance that what was just at the beginning becomes unjust at the end. Now, Sir, to put you in the way, you will never do right, nor God will never prosper you, until you give the King his due and the People their due. I desire their liberty and freedom as much as anybody. It consists in having a government of laws by which their life and their goods are their own. And you must give God his due by regulating rightly His Church which is now out of order. And do this according to the scripture."
King Charles turned to me.
I looked down.
"You must set it fast," he said.
"It is fast, Sir." I could not bear to look upon his eyes again.
"It might have been a littler higher."
For his sake I wished it were so. "It can be no higher, Your Majesty."
He nodded. "When I thrust out my hands this way..." He stretched them to his sides. "...then."
He turned to one of those with him. "I go from a corruptible, to an incorruptible Crown; one where no disturbance can be."
His friend spoke softly to his Majesty. "You are exchanged from a temporal to an eternal Crown; a good exchange...."
King Charles asked for a cap. He placed it upon his head and turned to me for approval, always the proper gentlemen before his subjects.
I knew, but how could it fall to me to touch the King's hair?
He nodded inquiring of me.
One step forward and I gently tucked the locks under his cap till none showed. Shivers ran down my back. Now it was just the King and I.
Turning his eyes heavenward, he lifted his hands, said two or three words to Himself, and stooped down. "Remember, stay for the sign."
"Yes, I will, and it please Your Majesty."
He paused for a time, placed his neck on the block, and stretched forth his hands.
Through the holes in my mask, I kept my eyes on his neck, raised the ax, and with one blow I severed his head from his body.
A large groan went up throughout the crowd, such a groan as I never heard before...and may I never hear again.
The words of his friend came to mind. 'There is but one stage more. This stage is turbulent and troublesome; it is a short one. But you may consider, it will soon carry you a very great way. It will carry you from Earth to Heaven. And there you shall find a great deal of cordial joy and comfort.'
A tear wet my mask as I held the Kings head up for all to see.
The complete description and dialog can be found at