The Royal Demise of King Charles I – a snippet from “Dark Destiny”.

King Charles I

King Charles I

Historical Background

Parliament appointed a High Court of Justice in January 1649.  King Charles I was charged with high treason against the people of England for his part in the English Civil War. The King’s trial opened on 20 January. He refused to answer the charges, saying that he did not recognise the authority of the High Court, but he was found guilty of the charges against him and sentenced to death on 27 January 1649. The King was beheaded on a scaffold outside the Banqueting House at Whitehall on 30 January.

This event is dramatized in my novel DARK DESTINY, book three of the Dark Birthright trilogy.  Here is a snippet from the book.

From a chapter named “Royal Demise”

January 30, 1649 – London, England – 9:30am – St. James’ Park

            It was a bitter morning in London, with temperatures hovering in the low thirties.  It was so cold that the Thames froze over.  The sky was overcast, a harbinger of things to come.

King Charles knelt beside his dog; a brown and white spaniel named Rogue, and caressed his ears.  “Never fear, my friend.  Someone will care for you.”  The dog gazed at him with innocent eyes.  Charles knew that he would never see him again.

“My King!” William Juxon cried.  The Bishop of London looked stricken.  “I would be pleased to take him to your family or keep him myself if need be.”

Charles looked up.  “Thank you, friend.”  The old man was a devoted companion.  “May God smile upon you.”  The King stroked the dog’s back and planted a kiss on his head.  Then he struggled to stand, relying upon his weak ankles.

“Let me help, your Majesty!”  The Bishop reached out to assist him.

Charles waved a hand.  “Nay, let me do it.”  After a few more attempts he was upright, facing the Bishop.  He gazed at the sky and sighed.  “Such a beautiful morning.”

Juxon raised his eyebrows.

The King smiled.  “Ah…  I know that it is not.  Humor me.  For it is the last morning that I will ever see.”

“Oh…”  The Bishop was close to tears, “I wish that was not true.”

The King squeezed his shoulder.  “Weep not for me.  For this is my second marriage day.  Before night I hope to be espoused to my blessed Jesus.”

Juxon wept openly.

Charles barely heard him.  Now that he’d said goodbye to the dog, he obsessed on events that led up to his predicament.  After a long incarceration, he’d escaped to the Isle of Wight.  Betrayed by the island’s governor, he’d been confined to Carisbrooke Castle.  From this location, he bargained with various royalist parties and signed a secret treaty with the Scots.  His offer was simple.  If they would invade England on Charles’ behalf and restore him to the throne, he would tolerate Presbyterianism.  Factions of royalist Scots invaded England, sparking a brutal second civil war.  They were soundly defeated.

After failed negotiations, the King was moved to Hurst Castle in late 1648, then to Windsor Castle.  For encouraging a civil war while in captivity, the monarch was accused of high treason.  The House of Commons passed an Act of Parliament to create a court for his trial.

Charles had thought that this action would fail.  It was dangerous to accuse a King of treason.  Indeed, many potential commissioners refused to serve.  Then the unthinkable happened.  In early January, he’d been put on trial before sixty-eight commissioners who urged him to enter a plea.  Charles refused, claiming that no court had jurisdiction over a monarch.  He argued that his authority to rule had been given to him by God when he was crowned and the trial was illegal.  Three times he refused to enter a plea!  It was seen as an admission of guilt.  The trial proceeded, witnesses were heard, and fifty-nine of the commissioners signed his death warrant.

The Chief Judge had delivered the sentence, “Charles Stuart is a tyrant, traitor, murderer, and public enemy to the good of this nation.  He shall be put to death by severing his head from his body.”

The memory infuriated him.  When the sentence was passed, I tried to defend myself.  They would not hear me!  I was taken from the court by armed soldiers like a common criminal.  He’d been granted a few days to make peace with God and say goodbye to his family.

The Bishop of London helped him to prepare for the ordeal, joining him for morning prayers and administering the Sacrament.  He read the lesson for the day, ‘The Passion of the Christ’.  Charles found it reassuring.  Like Christ the Savior, he was ready to endure this final humiliation to meet his maker.  Some thought him guilty.  But God would absolve him of wrongdoing.

His family was another story.  His two oldest sons and younger daughter were living in Paris, under the protection of the exiled Stuart court.  It gave him comfort that his son James had escaped parliamentary custody to travel to France, disguised as a woman.  His bloodline would continue and eventually prevail.  The only ones left in London were his wife Henrietta, his thirteen-year-old daughter Elizabeth, and nine-year-old son Henry.  He hadn’t seen his wife in more than four years.  They’d quarreled over fundamental issues, one being her unfaithfulness.  Therefore, he’d snubbed his wife and allowed only his daughter and son to visit.

Charles got revenge.  His last words to his daughter were “Tell your mother that my thoughts never strayed from her, and that love should be the same to the last.  I have always been faithful to her.”  This innocuous message pleased his children, but he knew that it would wound his wife.  He’d investigated her infidelity and found that she betrayed him.  He confronted her with evidence and extracted a confession about that traitorous Scot, Lord Gordon.  He gritted his teeth.  How many more were there?  French whore!

Colonel Thomlinson approached.  The uniformed man was in charge of the two companies of infantry guarding him.  He stroked his beard nervously.  “It is time, Your Majesty.”

The King unconsciously touched his neck.  They will escort me to my death.  Breathe, Charles!  Dignity is required.  You must not show fear.  He had dressed in thick underclothes so that he would not shiver from the cold.  It could be interpreted as a sign of weakness.

“Your Majesty,” the Colonel repeated.  “The signal has been given.  We must go.”  The guards raised the Colors and began to beat drums.  A young boy accepted the leash and led the spaniel away.

The King’s bowels churned.  He’d eaten no breakfast, but instead had taken the Sacrament.  Nothing more.  He did not want to vomit.  Oh, how he wished for a swig of laudanum!  Charles looked around.  He was surrounded by soldiers.  No one would rescue him.  There was no chance of escape.  “I am ready.”

Ah…  But a handful of his supporters were there as well.  He saw them remove their caps to travel bare-headed as he would.  The Bishop, his attendant Thomas Herbert, and a few more…  Such brave men.

Bishop Juxon placed a hand on his shoulder.  “Come, your Majesty.”

Charles watched as his partisans lined up before and after him.  For an instant, he felt protected by his friends.  The foot soldiers formed a barrier around them as they began to walk across the park with Colors flying and drums beating.  The Palace of Whitehall loomed in the distance.  He could see a large crowd gathered around it.

Charles held his head high.  His outward manner was calm, but his mind was a raging storm.  How dare they do this to a King!

The procession left the park and passed crowds of curious onlookers gathering to see the execution.  They took the stairs up into the Gallery, then into the Cabinet Chamber.  There the King continued his Devotion with the Bishop.  To avoid fainting from hunger, he drank a glass of wine and ate a piece of bread at noon.  Another hour passed.

Charles thought that it was cruel to make him wait.  He’d been informed of a delay.  The official executioner refused to do the deed.  There then followed a frantic search to find someone to take his place.  Finally, they’d located a man and his assistant who agreed to do it masked.

The King hoped that he knew what he was doing.  An unskilled ax man could take three blows to sever a head.  Charles swallowed hard.  He wished that it was over.

The story continues in Dark Destiny, book three in the Dark Birthright trilogy.

Read about the series:

http://www.DarkBirthrightSaga.com

Lord Skene – a legendary character featured in my novel “Dark Destiny”

Lord Skene

Lord Skene

… A snippet from my novel ‘Dark Destiny’…

Castle Skene, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, May 1649

Castle Skene lay in a wild glen, a secluded valley with a loch running through it.  Many inhabitants spoke Gaelic and their stark features reminded one of ancient Celts.  It was a thinly peopled region due to the bare hills, sparse  cultivation, and standing stones.  The squat dwellings of peasants emitted smoke from fresh peat, the earthy smell mingling with the scent of pine trees.

By the edge of the loch stood Castle Skene, a foreboding granite structure protected by a massive outer wall.  Its construction was medieval.  Two tall towers stretched to the sky, connected by a main building and catwalks.  The thick walls kept the warmth in during winter months, but prevented the summer heat from entering, necessitating hearth fires year round.  Hardly any windows were to be seen on the side that faced the valley.  The front had some, but they were little more than slits, designed to repel attacks without artillery.  None had dared to attack recently.  They feared the Lord of the castle.

The weather was overcast and gloomy.  It had rained hard that morning and was threatening a repeat performance.  Lord Skene stood at a bench in his laboratory, working on an experiment.  He was interested in chemistry, an art that involved the preparation of gold and silver.  The hypothesis was simple: All metals are compounds.  The baser ones contain the same as gold and silver, but are contaminated with impurities.  These can be purged away with the application of intense heat and a substance called the philosopher’s stone.

“Ah…” Skene held a bottle to his nose and sniffed.  “Lapis philosophorum…  A powder red in color…  It smells strongly…  I shall test this tonight.”  There was a knock on the door.  Skene  placed the bottle on the bench and stared at the oak portal.  “Who is it?”

“Fagan, Sir.”

His anger flared. “Come!”  The massive door opened with a creak, admitting the terrified servant.

The short, spindly legged man lifted a lantern.  “My Lord?”

Skene glared.  “How dare ye interrupt me in my laboratory?”

Fagan’s knees knocked beneath his kilt.  He looked down as he spoke, “Forgive me, my Lord.  But there is a messenger at the gate.  He says that it’s important.”

Skene growled, “Idiot!  They all say that.  I should throw ye in the oubliette.”

The servant fell to his knees.  “Have mercy, my Lord!  I am a simple man, unskilled in the ways of the world.  I will not do it again.”

“Get up!”

The servant scrambled to his feet.

Skene glared. “Who is at the gate?”

“Uh…”  His voice trembled, “A holy man…  A monk in a white robe…  He comes with a message from Deer Abbey.”

“Hmmphhh!”  Normally, Lord Skene answered to no one.  But he had an obligation to these monks since they entrusted him with James Gordon.  “Escort the monk to my study.  Light the fire, straighten my desk, and then provide us with refreshments.”

Fagan bowed like a willow in the wind. “As ye wish, my Lord.”  The servant fled the room.

Skene returned to his bench and placed a stopper in the bottle.  He took out an ornate key, unlocked a claw-footed cabinet, and hid the vessel on a shelf. He placed a book beside it, a rare copy of the ‘Bibliotheca Chemica Curiosa’.  The experiment would have to wait.  He locked the cabinet and scanned his clothes for traces of the rare powder.  “These monks are inquisitive. They must not suspect what I’m doing.”  Pocketing the key, he headed for his study…

Author’s notes:
Dark Destiny is book three of the Dark Birthright trilogy.  The books are available in paperback and eBook.
Read about the series:

http://www.DarkBirthrightSaga.com

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Lord Skene is a legendary character. Here is a link to an article about him.  Of course, my portrayal is fantasy.
The Wizard Laird’s Dance with the Devil

The Book of Deer – illuminated manuscript from Scotland

The Book of Deer

The Book of Deer

Did you know that Scotland has an illuminated manuscript?
The Book of Deer is a tenth century illuminated manuscript from North East Scotland. As the only pre-Norman manuscript from this area known as “former Pictland” it provides us with a unique insight into the early church, culture and society of this period. Amid the Latin text and the Celtic illuminations there can be found the oldest pieces of Gaelic writing to have survived from early Medieval Scotland.
The Book of Deer:

  • is illuminated in a style related to that used in the books of Dimma and Durrow.
  • by 1000 it was in the possession of the Monastery of Deer, a sixth century foundation at Old Deer in Aberdeenshire associated with Columba and his disciple Drostan.
  • in the twelfth century the Monks of Deer used the blank spaces and the margins in the book to record details of grants of land to the Monastery and its foundation legend. These “notitiae” are the earliest continuous examples of written Scots Gaelic.

The book’s importance in Scottish Literary History:

The Book of Deer is one of Scotland’s most important manuscripts. It is a small (154mm x 107mm) Gospel Book, now housed in Cambridge University Library. Before c. 1100 it was in the possession of the early Pictish monastery at Old Deer in north-east Aberdeenshire. This monastery has otherwise left no trace of its existence. A Cistercian Abbey was founded nearby in 1219. The Book of Deer came into the ownership of Cambridge University Library in 1715, when the library of the Bishop of Ely and Norwich was presented to the former by George I. Before that, the Book of Deer may have been in the possession of Dr Gale, High master of St Paul’s School (1672-97). The stages by which it moved from the North East of Scotland to the South of England are by no means clear. Even Cambridge University Library was unaware of its significance until it was discovered in 1860 by Henry Bradshaw, the librarian at that time.
In Dark Lord and Dark Destiny,  I feature the monks of the Abbey of Deer and a sacred book they are protecting.  This is the book I had in mind.  When I was in Scotland,  a historian told me about this book and introduced me to the Book of Deer project, dedicated to educating people about the manuscript and returning the book to Scotland.  This same historian took us on a private tour of the ruins of the Abbey and gave me a research book that described the original layout.  Here are some pictures from our tour:
You can view a video tour of the Abbey of Deer at:
You can read about the Dark Birthright trilogy at:
Some pictures and commentary from http://bookofdeer.co.uk/
Please visit and support the Book of Deer project.

Charles II was crowned King at Scone on January 1st

CharlesII

Charles II

On 1 January 1651, Charles II was crowned in a ceremony at Scone. His coronation was the last to take place in Scotland. His father, Charles I, having been put to the axe 30 January 1649, Charles II was declared king of Great Britain and Ireland by the Scottish Parliament the following month, but the English Parliament quickly made that proclamation illegal. Meeting and losing to Cromwell in battle at Worcester in September, 1651, Charles spent almost the next decade exiled on the Continent. The monarchy, the House of Lords, and the Privy Council were abolished and Oliver Cromwell, after much roiling of the traditional power structure of England, during which several parliaments rose and fell, became “Lord Protector” of the Commonwealth with all but dictatorial power. It would not be until Cromwell’s death in 1660, and the removal of Richard, Cromwell’s son and successor, that Charles II issued the Declaration of Breda in April of 1660, allowing as how he would return to the throne of England under certain conditions. In Winchester Abbey, 23 April 1661, Charles II was crowned the second time, and all relevant documents thereafter were dated as if he had succeeded his father in 1649.
(Historical commentary from http://www.Scotlandrising.com/  Illustration by Jane Starr Weils)
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You can read a dramatization of the ceremony at Scone in my novel DARK DESTINY.
Read about the series:
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Jeanne Treat
author of the Dark Birthright Trilogy
an illustrated tale of 17th century Scotland