January, 1649. After seven years of fighting in the bloodiest war in Britain’s history, Parliament had overpowered King Charles I and now faced a problem: what to do with a defeated king, a king who refused to surrender? Parliamentarians resolved to do the unthinkable, to disregard the Divine Right of Kings and hold Charles I to account for the appalling suffering and slaughter endured by his people. A tribunal of 135 men was hastily gathered in London, and although Charles refused to acknowledge the power of his subjects to try him, the death sentence was unanimously passed. On an icy winter’s day on a scaffold outside Whitehall, in an event unique in English history, the King of England was executed. When the dead king’s son, Charles II, was restored to the throne, he set about enacting a deadly wave of retribution against all those - the lawyers, the judges, the officers on the scaffold - responsible for his father’s death. Some of the 'regicides’ - the killers of the king - pleaded for mercy, while others stoically awaited their sentence. Many went into hiding in England, or fled to Europe or America. Those who were caught and condemned suffered agonising and degrading ends, while others saw out their days in hellish captivity.
Best-selling historian Charles Spencer explores this violent clash of ideals through the individuals whose fates were determined by that one, momentous decision. A powerful tale of revenge from the dark heart of royal history and a fascinating insight into the dangers of political and religious allegiance in Stuart England, these are the shocking stories of the men who dared to kill a king.
©2014 Charles Spencer (P)2014 Audible Inc.
It is easiest to think of this book as containing two parts. The first part, an overview of the English Civil War, covers the period from just before the start of the First English Civil War through the Restoration of Charles II and, of necessity, mentions some Royalist and some Parliamentarian victories, the capture, incarceration and trial of the King, the seizure of power by the Army, the formation of the Rump Parliament, the Commonwealth and the Restoration of Charles II after the death of Cromwell. All of this is necessary so as to set the stage for the real tale of this book - the fate of those who most involved with the trial and death of Charles I and especially those whose names were on the King’s Death Warrant and those directly involved with his beheading. Thus this book becomes very personal in regards to what happened to the people referred to as the “Regicides”.
All Civil Wars are full of tragedies but in this book we see those tragedies through the fates of those most heavily involved in the events, both Royalist and Parliamentarian as well as by those scrambling to save their lives by betraying their friends, colleagues and acquaintances. As an American I was not familiar with most of the names of those involved and worried that I would lose track of who was who, who did what and who fought for which side but Mr Spencer was always prepared to let the reader know who each person was whenever it was necessary. While the book is wonderfully written and filled in a large blank space in my knowledge of English history, some parts of it were difficult to listen to. Many of those involved were Hung, Drawn and Quartered and Mr Spencer is, at times I believe, a bit too complete in his descriptions.
Some things shine clearly in this book. One was the perfidy of some of the Parliamentarians who backed the war against the King and, when the Commonwealth became unpopular, not only agitated for the Restoration of Charles II, but sat in judgement of those who did their bidding during the war. Another was the willingness of the Army to decide for itself who should and who should not sit in Parliament. And still others were the thirst for revenge by Charles II and the Royalists upon those who they said “murdered” the King, even to the point of tracking them down both in Europe and in the Colonies, the willingness of those in power to violate the law and their promised word concerning amnesty as well as to browbeat those who sat in the Juries judging the defendants and, of course, the shameful tale of Cromwell’s corpse. In the end what sticks in my mind are the small victories of some of the “Regicides” who managed, in the end, to escape the hunters and assassins and those in Switzerland and the American Colonies who ignored the large promised rewards and helped to protect the fugitives, many of whom were, after all, only guilty of following Parliament’s orders. If you are a fan of Oliver Cromwell this book may not be to your liking.
Mr Spencer has written a very good book which will stick with me for a long time and my view of the entire English Civil War, Commonwealth and Restoration has changed due to the excellent writing and splendid narration of Tim Bruce. If you are interested in British history this book is a welcome addition to that subject.
Killers of the King is a book of two interlocking tales. The first tells the story of King Charles I and the events that lead him being tried and executed by his own parliament. The second is the trials and executions later of those who committed this act of regicide
Charles Spencer does a good job at delivering this tale of murder, intrigue and betray. For someone like me without much knowledge in this piece of history it was an enlightening read. But beware it is not a book for those with a squeamish disposition.
A well-written history of the civil war leading to the ouster, trial and execution of Charles I, and the orgy of royal revenge against the "regicides" during the restored monarchy of Charles II. The restoration of the Stuart monarchy, and the bloody retribution which followed, which were very much on the minds of the founders of the United States more than a century later, when they signed the Declaration of Independence. This book was professionally and objectively written by a descendant of the Stuart monarchs.
The author of this book is the late Lady Diana Spencer's brother and he's definitely done his homework. This book covers the period of the English civil war, the conviction of Charles I, the rise of Oliver Cromwell, then the hunting down of all those involved once Charles II assumes the throne. It was a barbaric, but very interesting time.
"Wow! Balanced, interesting and entertaining."
This book owes much to contemporary sources, memoirs and diaries as well as historical documents. Tim Bruce brings all above to life, changing his voice and accent in so many ways that you can really hear historical figures speaking. It makes already fascinating story even more compelling and engaging. Together with brilliant storytelling of Spencer, Bruce's narration make this but a must.
Charles I was, and still is, a controversial figure. So are the men who condemned him to death. This book is not so much about history, dates and political facts, as it is about people, their believes, principles and convictions. It is fascinating to learn about people who made the history, ordinary people with their troubles and joys. This book is not about Oliver Cromwell nor is it about the war or Charles I. It is about a group of peple that most of us never heard of, about the crow behind the events. And it's a bloody brilliant book and bloody good story!
Lady Fairfax, wife of the prominent parliamentary general and close friend of Oliver Cromwell, heckling the prosecutors during King Charles's trial. Fantastic. And I will forever cringe when hearing the word 'Downing', as in Downing Street, for he betrayed former friends all over Europe and delivered them to the Restoration's retribution for his former enemy's, Charles I death. Bastard.
I took my player to the bathroom in order not to interrupt listening. If that's not a proof of how engaging and interesting this story is, I don't know what is.
"A ferociously good book"
This history is dark and gruesome and the politics are complex, but what shines through is the lengths people will go to, to do what they think is right. It is incredible to think the acts of insane torture were carried out a stone's throw away from the seat of British Government and the street where our Prime Minister lives is named after one of the most odious men in history. The section of the book set in America is particularly riveting and it is humbling to read about the brave souls who risked their own lives to protect the fugitives when they could easily have protected themselves by handing them over to the Royalist forces. The sadness of men forced to live the rest of their days away from families who clearly loved them, was incredibly moving.
This has been a great audio experience even though I did struggle with keeping track of the vast array of characters. To remedy this I am going to buy the book in print.
"My best book this year"
It's number 1 this year
The ease of the story telling
He was excellent he brought the book alive. If I had read the book I may have missed some if the important bits
I did list to it during the day, not just at bed time.
Great book really enjoyed it. Brought the period to life. I didn't know much about this period, I do now.
"Very enjoyable and informative"
The whole book had vivid descriptions of the anxiety of the time up to and after the execution. It describes in broad strokes the events leading to the execution and then the agony of the regicides in hiding and capture. The narrator is very easy to listen and this audio book should be a first choice for lovers of English history.
"Charles I and II"
Accurate record which is read with interest.
Recommended listening for anyone interested in one of the most intriguing times of English history.
"Interesting rather than captivating"
An interesting and concise review of the 'English' Civil War and the less known implications for those involved in the execution of the king. Not riveting, but worthy of a listen for this rarely covered element of the war for the implications of the 'killers'. I certainly learnt a lot. Narration was excellent.
The political background is very clearly explained. The regicides' plight is sympathetically described.
Charles II is brought to life. A very impartial viewpoint is conveyed.
"a very interesting and revealing book."
I found I new hardly anything about this topic. quickly realising how many men had signed the. kings death warrant and then discovering the lengths Charles II would go to to find those responsible. but more, the fate of many of those and the lengths some went to to evade capture and certain death.
"Interesting and full of names"
The second part picks up a pace for some reason, so stick with it. It is full of revenge stories to the King's Killers, sometime difficult to follow when the story switches to another person, though this isn't the fault of the book, just the audio medium. An example of how when in power you need to be ruthless and not allow your opposition back in.
"Good story, well told"
A good story, well told of a side of history that I've not heard of before. Very enjoyable, if you can say that about the tale of several executions and assassinations.
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