Axtell Family OrganizationHow many Regicides?

"Regicide" is the killing of a king and "Regicides" are king killers. The capitalized plural term almost always refers to those charged with the death of King Charles I in 1649. In a search for "regicide", you'll also find references in France to the 1793 execution of King Louis XVI and, in Russia, to the 1918 execution of Tsar Nicholas II. But in France and Russia, the executions were part of successful revolutions and no one was brought to trial for the crime of regicide. So, when you search for "regicides", it's just about all about Charles I. You'll also find a lot of disagreement about the number of regicides.

The charge against the regicides was "compassing and imagining the death of the king." No one was charged for acting as executioner and there is still doubt as to who actually swung the ax. The regicides were those who had a role in plotting the execution.

Here are the numbers of Regicides you might see and the reasons.

"About 100"
... is the number of people excepted from the Act of Pardon of 6 June 1660. At the Restoration of the Monarchy, Charles II showed political adeptness by quickly resolving past conflicts. He gave a general pardon that excluded those excepted by Parliament. About 100 men who were closely involved with the execution of his father and the establishment of Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector were excepted. Charles II, who was 18 when his father was executed in 1649, could easily have been more vengeful, but he focused more on reuniting the nation. Most of those excepted secured pardons or prison sentences. Mercy was usually given to those who turned themselves in rather than wait to be arrested. The 13 who were executed could be called scapegoats, but it's remarkable that only 13 of the conspirators were executed in this effort to bring closure to the Civil Wars and seal the Restoration of the Monarchy.

... is the number of “judges” or “Parliamentary Commissioners” who were present on Saturday, January 27, 1649 when the King was sentenced to death. “Commissioners” are members of a committee who are given authorization by Parliament to do something. In this case, it seems that all members of Parliament were authorized to sit in judgment on the King. Thus, “Members of Parliament”, “Commissioners”, and “Judges” seem to refer to the same people.  Note that “Parliament” was the “Rump Parliament”, with no House of Lords and only those members of the House of Commons who were sympathetic to the Parliamentary Army and were allowed entry in Pride’s Purge. The number of Judges varied from day to day of the trial.

...was the number of members of the "Rump" Parliament who signed the Death Warrant against King Charles I. Some were unwilling and Richard Ingoldsby won a pardon by claiming that Oliver Cromwell had held his hand to make him sign.

...was the number of signers of the 1649 death warrant who were still alive at the Restoration in 1660.

...was the number who went to trial as regicides in 1660. This included the signers of the death warrant plus a few more conspirators minus those who fled the country and minus those who cut deals with Charles II.

13 the total number who where executed as regicides.

...was the total number (judges and others) executed as of October, 1660. Three more (Okey, Barkstead, Corbet) were executed in 1662 after they were captured in Holland.

... was the number of judges who were executed as regicides. These 9 judges also signed the death warrant. A few authors, such as Wedgwood, consider only these judges as regicides. Four others were “too close to the King’s death to hope for mercy from his son...” (Wedgwood, The Trial of Charles I). The four were preacher Hugh Peters, military men Daniel Axtell and Francis Hacker, and prosecuting lawyer, John Cook. Most authors consider all those accused of “compassing and imagining the death of the King” as regicides.

... was the number of judges who were executed as of October, 1660.

... was the number of people who were accused of acting as executioner and executing the sentence of “severing his head from his body”.

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Last revised 04 Jan 2003 by Dan Axtell