This is a book on an area that has not received much modern attention (although just like buses, you wait for ages then two come along at once: in the last couple of months another work has appeared on this very topic - Killers of the King: The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I by Charles Spencer. How depressing must that be to the writer of the second one....). It tells a good story though: the tale of how Charles I came to be tried and executed and how after the restoration of his son Charles II, tables were turned and the regicides became the hunted themselves.
Don Jordan and Michael Walsh have a background in documentary journalism rather than academic history and this perhaps contributes to the fact that the work is accessible and reads well. The background to the execution of Charles is dealt with briefly but clearly and the narrative of the trial and execution reads well. Where the book is most valuable is in describing the period of chaos, treachery and political wheeler-dealing that followed the death of Oliver Cromwell and the failure of his son Richard. Normally this receives limited focus as standard works (and exam courses) move swiftly to the Restoration of Charles II. Here though we see the full reaction to regime change. Fellow travellers of the Republic rush to change sides (in some cases becoming double-agents to help root out the Republicans who do not sway), and are quick to be visibly praising the restored monarchy and attacking the outgoing regime. Villain of the piece is portrayed to be General Monck, erstwhile General in the New Model Army, but then turncoat who changes sides and uses his forces to neutralise the Republican military and prepare the way for Charles II to return.
As part of the terms for his return, Charles II promises "Oblivion" a pardon to all but those who signed his father's death warrant. The new monarch however is shown as being far from charitable towards the surviving leaders of the Commonwealth and those (such as "Cornet Joyce" who originally took his father under arrest) he felt bore some part of the responsibility for the execution of the King. Vengeance is a better description than mercy as signatories of the document sentencing Charles I to death are arrested, tried with little real opportunity at defence, then (described in detail) hanged, castrated, disembowelled (still alive) and quartered. In an ironic echo of the Marian executions a century earlier, the dignity shown by those dying does much to uphold their cause - to the concern of Charles II.
The list of those excluded from pardon keeps growing, agents comb Europe (and less successfully the colonies in north America) assassinating, seeking rendition and extradition. It appears the town of Vevey in Swiss Bern was one of the few places to genuinely offer asylum and protect against Royalist agents. This is where Edmund Ludlow, whom many of the exiles hoped might lead the invasion to depose Charles II, managed to live safely until his death in 1692.
The King's Revenge shows clearly that the end of the Commonwealth did not only mean a restoration of monarchy. It also brought an end to a period when principle was a key determinant of policy. The men of principle were forced to hide or were extinguished. Those left behind in England and in politics were the survivors, those willing to bend to suit expediency. These politicians, rather than the restored monarchy were to set the tone for the future development of English and then British democracy. The "Good Old Cause" was well and truly buried.
linked casahistoria site: English Civil War