30th of January

St Barsimæus, bishop and martyr, 2nd century. St Martina, virgin and martyr, 3rd century. St Aldegondes, virgin and abbess, 660. St Bathildes, queen of France, 680.


Born. – Charles Rollin, 1661, Paris; Walter Savage Landor, 1775. 
Died. – William Chillingworth, 1644; King Charles I., 1649; Dr John Robison, mechanical philosopher, 1805.



Though the anniversary of the execution of Charles I. is very justly no longer celebrated with religious ceremonies, one can scarcely on any occasion allow the day to pass without a feeling of pathetic interest in the subject. The meek behaviour of the King in his latter days, his tender interviews with his little children when parting with them for ever, the insults he bore so well, his calmness at the last on the scaffold, combine to make us think leniently of his arbitrary rule, his high-handed proceedings with Nonconformists, and even his falseness towards the various opposing parties he had to deal with. When we further take into account the piety of his meditations as exhibited in the Eikon Basilike, we can scarcely wonder that a very large proportion of the people, of his own generation, regarded him as a kind of martyr, and cherished his memory with the most affectionate regard. Of the highly inexpedient nature of the action, it is of no use to speak, as its consequences in causing retaliation and creating a reaction for arbitrary rule, are only too notorious.

Charles was put to death upon a scaffold raised in front of the Banqueting House, Whitehall. There is reason to believe that he was conducted to this sad stage through a window, from which the frame had been taken out, at the north extremity of the building near the gate. It was not so much elevated above the street, but that he could hear people weeping and praying for him below. A view of the dismal scene was taken at the time, engraved, and published in Holland, and of this a transcript is here presented.


The scaffold, as is well known, was graced that day by two executioners in masks; and as to the one who used the axe a question has arisen, who was he? The public seems to have been kept in ignorance on this point at the time; had it been otherwise, he could not have long escaped the daggers of the royalists/ Immediately after the Restoration, the Government made an effort to discover the masked headsman; but we do not learn that they ever succeeded. William Lilly, the famous astrologer, having dropped a hint that he knew something on the subject, was examined before a parliamentary committee at that time, and gave the following information:

“The next Sunday but one after Charles the First was beheaded, Robert Spavin, Secretary unto Lieutenant-General Cromwell, invited himself to dine with me, and brought Anthony Peirson and several others along with him to dinner. Their principal discourse all dinner-time was only, who it was that beheaded the King. One said it was the common hangman; another, Hugh Peters; others were nominated, but none concluded. Robert Spavin, so soon as dinner was done, took me to the south window. Saith he, “These are all mistaken; they have not named the man that did the fact: it was Lieutenant-Colonel Joyce. I was in the room when he fitted himself for the work – stood behind him when he did it – when done went in again with him. There’s no man knows this but my master (viz. Cromwell), Commissary Ireton, and myself.”

We have engraved two of the relics associated with this solemn event in our history. First is the Bible believed to have been used by Charles, just previous to his death, and which the King is said to have presented to Bishop Juxon, though this circumstance is not mentioned in any contemporaneous account of the execution.


Next is engraved the silver clock-watch, which had long been used by King Charles, and was given by him to Sir Thomas Herbert, on the morning of his execution.


The coffin of King Charles was seen in the reign of William III., on the vault being opened to receive one of the Princess Anne’s children. It remained unobserved, forgotten, and a matter of doubt for upwards of a century thereafter, till, in 1813, the vault had once more to be opened for the funeral of the Duchess of Brunswick. On the 1st of April, the day after the interment of that princess, the Prince Regent, the Duke of Cumberland, the Dean of Windsor, Sir Harry Halford, and two other gentlemen assembled at the vault, while a search was made for the remains of King Charles.



It is pleasanter to contemplate the feelings of tenderness and veneration than those of contempt and anger. We experience a relief in turning to look on the affectionate grief of those who, on however fallacious grounds, mourned for the royal martyr. It is understood that there were seven mourning rings distributed among the more intimate friends of the unfortunate king, and one of them was latterly in the possession of Horace Walpole at Strawberry Hill, being a gift to him from Lady Murray Elliott. The stone presents the profile of the king in miniature. On the obverse of this, within, is a death’s head, surmounting a crown, with a crown of glory above; flanked by the words, GLORIA – VANITAS; while round the interior runs the legend, Gloria Ang. Emigravit, Ja. the 30, 1648.


There are also extant several examples of a small silver case or locket, in the form of a heart, which may be presumed each to have been suspended near the heart of some devoted and tearful loyalist. In the example here presented, there is an engraved profile head of the king within, opposite to which, on the inside of the lid, is inscribed, ‘Prepared be to follow me, C.R.’ On one of the exterior sides is a heart struck through with arrows, and the legend, ‘I live and dy in loyaltye.’ On the other exterior side is an eye dropping tears, surmounted by ‘Quis temperet a lacrymis, January 30, 1648.’



On this Day in Other Sources.



Under such circumstances, and such power, [James Stuart] obtained, on the 30th of January, 1562, under the privy seal, the Queen’s grant of the earldom of Moray.

Life of Mary, pp.62-77.



Jan. 30 [1603]. – ‘Francis Mowbray brak ward out of the [Edinburgh] Castle, and he fell owir the wall and brak his craig [neck]. Thereafter, he was trailit to the gallows, and hangit; and thereafter he was quarterit, and his head and four quarters put on the four ports.’ 

In this brief manner Birrel narrates the sad end of a sprightly and gallant, though intemperate spirit. Francis Mowbray was a son of Sir John Mowbray of Barnbougle, an ancient house long since gone down to nothing. Francis himself was the friend and companion of Sir Walter Scott of Buccleuch, the hero of the attack on Carlisle Castle in 1596. He had taken part in that exploit, but soon after got into trouble, in consequence of a quarrel with one William Schaw, whom he struck through with a rapier and killed. 

An Italian fencer named Daniel, residing in London, had denounced Mowbray to Elizabeth’s government as having undertaken to kill the king of Scots. Mowbray denied the accusation, and offered the combat. The two being sent down to Edinburgh, it was arranged that they should fight hand to hand in the great close of Holyroodhouse; but before the appointed day arrived, notice came from England that some witnesses had come forward who could prove the treason. On the 29th of January, Mowbray was confronted with the witnesses, whose evidence, however, was not considered conclusive. The two were placed in several apartments in Edinburgh Castle, the Italian occupying a room immediately above Mowbray. 

At eight o’clock in the evening of the 30th of January, being Sunday, Francis Mowbray was found dying at the foot of the Castle rock. It was stated that he had sewed his blankets together, and let himself down over the wall; but the line being too short, he fell, and mortally injured himself. The unfortunate man died in the course of the night. An attempt was made by some friends to raise a report that he had been thrown over the window; but this was believed by few. The authorities showed no hesitation about the matter; but, concluding on the guilt of the deceased, had his body dragged backwards through the streets to the bar of the Court of Justiciary, where sentence was duly passed against him. The corpse was then dealt with as Birrel relates. The superstitious remarked the verification of the fearful words of the deceased – that he might fall at his enemies’ feet, and become a spectacle to all Edinburgh. – Pit. Cal.

Domestic Annals, pp.124-176. 



2372. Cockburn (William), Episcopal Minister. A Sermon upon the xxxth of January, 1713. Being the Anniversary Fast for the Martyrdom of the Blessed King Charles the First. Preached at Glasgow. Edinburgh, 1713.

Memorial Catalogue, Gallery 1.

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