King Charles the Martyr, 1643-1649

By Esmé Wingfield-Stratford | Go to book overview
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wonder that the words, "falling so unexpectedly from one so young, made the King rejoice exceedingly."

While this was taking place at St James's, the space in front of Whitehall was a scene of intensive activity, sounds of which must have been almost audible at the neighbouring palace. A space was being railed off in the angle formed by the Banqueting House and the part of the palace jutting out westward to Holbein's Gate. And within this space a wooden structure had arisen against the wall of Banqueting House, as high as to the bottom of the lower windows. Here planks were nailed horizontally to make a platform, and round this a railing was constructed, about waist high. This was next covered over with some black material, so that a watcher from the street below could only see the heads and upper parts of those who might be standing or walking on the platform. A man kneeling or lying would be out of sight. Darkness descended and silence; the space in front of Whitehall was deserted. It was as bitter a night as any man could remember. The Thames was ice-bound and there was rime of frost on the hangings and woodwork of the unfamiliar structure, whose form could only just be distinguished from that of the huge building that towered behind it, and of which it seemed to form a shadowy excrescence.


15
TO WHITEHALL

THAT last night of his on earth, the King slept soundly and peaceably. It was some hours before dawn when he awoke, and proceeded to wake Herbert, whom he perceived to be tossing restlessly, and whom, with his habitual considerateness, he asked what it was troubled him. Herbert had had a typical anxiety dream, in which Archbishop Laud had visited the King, and had talked to him by the window, the King being very pensive and the Archbishop sighing. The dream had concluded with Laud, as he retired, falling prostrate to the ground in endeavouring to make his obeisance. To a modern psychologist the symbolism of this would be transparent--the ideas of death and beheading, both associated with Laud and transferred to Charles. The King was as interested as he would have been at any other time, it was, he

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