« AnteriorContinuar »
which he was soon destined to witness, must have carried the wound immediately to his heart.
That the clemency of Charles should be the theme of lavish panegyric with contemporary loyalty ought not possibly to excite our surprise: but, with reference to him, the time has long since elapsed in which praise, unsupported by truth, can be admitted on the plea of passion. If we reflect that Charles was not now reclaiming his royal rights as a conqueror; that the nation was not trembling at his feet, and, like a city taken by storm, in a state to be thankful for every deed of brutal violence which was not committed, but that in truth he was an impotent exile, receiving gratuitously a crown from the very hands which had torn it from his family, from a Parliament, a great majority of whose members had been active in the overthrow of the monarchy, and from an army, which had immediately conducted his father to the scaffold, -we may reasonably inquire by what acts could he have discovered a stronger propensity to cruelty than he did. In the first moments of power, conferred on him by his recent popularity, when his heart ought to have been softened by the unexpected influx of prosperous fortune, he eluded the proposition, which was made to him at Breda, for a general amnesty, and evidently discovered that his spirit brooded on revenge. When he was seated on his throne, he accepted those victims which the perfidiousness of party, in expiation of its own offences, was so base as to offer to him; and he glutted the nation, as far as he durst, with an effusion of blood, not more guilty than that of thousands perhaps who were present to behold it; for they who from their office were more personally
our Legislature in the 30th year of the present reign: and it is to be hoped that this ferocious punishment of quartering alive, will not be suffered much longer to pollute the pages of our criminal code. No man can deplore with more genuine sensibility than myself the sanguinary excesses and the opprobrious result of the French revolution : but when I reflect that it has banished the rack and the wheel, the red-hot pincers and the dismembering horse, I cannot forbear from thinking that it has made a considerable compensation to human nature for any violences which, in the paroxysm of its phrenzy, it may have offered to her.
Since this note was in print, it has been suggested to me that the use of torture, for extorting confession, has been revived in France. With the dreadful secrets of the dungeons of resuscitated despotism I pretend not to be acquainted; but no public exbibition or ayowal of torture has yet shocked the community of France. The re-establishment however of this cruel and atrocious practice cannot be regarded as improbable in the new empire of the French; and, with the renovation of the slave trade and of negro slavery in the West Indies, it will form an act of legislation well worthy, in its double reference to humanity and to political wisdom, of the new imperial government of the august Buonapartes.
engaged in the trial and the execution of the king, were unquestionably not more criminal than were all shose who had voted for these violences in Parliament; or in the army had first planned, and then imperiously carried them into effect. More however than they who were regarded as the actual regicides were exempted from the benefit of the amnesty. Neither Vane, nor Peters, nor Lambert was immediately implicated in the murder of the king; yet the two former of these were slaughtered, (and Vane, in violation of the royal promise to the Parliament for his pardon) while the last, the most guilty of the three, was indeed permitted to live, but to live only in a state of miserable exile.
But not limited to the sufferings of the living, the vengeance of Charles extended itself to mean and atrocious outrages on the dead. It broke the hallowed repose of the tomb, and exhibited that last infirmity of our mortal nature, the corruption through which it is doomed to pass into its kindred earth, to the derision and the disgust of impotent malignity. When we behold the bodies of the illustrious usurper" and of the
d It is well known that many doubts have existed respect. ing the place in which Oliver Cromwell was interred; and it has been advanced, on authority which cannot easily be controverted,
formidable Ireton torn from their graves,
that his corpse was removed, on the day succeeding that of his death, and buried in the field of Naseby. The account goes further and affirms that, suspicious of the indignities which would probably in a change of things be offered to the Usurper's body, his friends substituted for it in the coffin that of Charles; and that it was this corpse which was afterwards exposed on the gallows at Tyburn. To entertain my readers I will present them with a curious paper on this subject, preserved in Lord Somers's Collection. I must premise however that, as eleven years had nearly elapsed since the death of Charles, it is difficult to conceive how any distinction of countenance, or of seam about the neck could at this period be traced: unless indeed the process of dissolution had been suspended by the arts of embalming, the corpse, with the exception of the bones, must now have been resolved into its original elements. But the second fact, stated in the following document, is attested by less authentic evidence than the first; and one may be rejected while the other is received.
“ A counter-interment of the aforesaid arch-traytor, * as averred, and ready to be deposed (if occasion required) by Mr.
Barkstead, who daily frequents Richard's coffee-house, within Temple-Bar, being son to Barkstead, the regicide, that was executed as such soon after the Restoration, the son being at the time of the said arch-traytor's death about the age
of fifteen years. “ That the said regicide Barkstead, being lieutenant of the Tower of London, and a great confident of the usurper, did among other such confidents, in the time of the usurper's sickness, desire to know where he would be buried : to which he answered, where he had obtained the greatest victory and glory, and as nigh the spot as could be guessed where the heat of the action was, viz. in the field at Naseby, county of Northampton; which accordingly was thus performed: at midnight (soon after his death) being first embalmed, and wrapped in a leaden coffin, he was in a hearse conveyed to the same field, the said Mr.
• Oliver Cromwell.
and made the subject of idle punishment, Barkstead by order of his father attending close to the hearse, and being come to the field, there found about the midst of it a grave, dug about nine feet deep, with the green sod carefully laid on one side and the mould on the other; in which the coffin being soon put, the grave was instantly filled up, and the green sod laid exactly flat upon it, care being taken that the surplus mould was clean taken away.
Soon after, like care was taken that the said field was entirely ploughed up, and sown three or four years successively with wheat.
Several other material circumstances, relating to the said interment, the said Mr. Barkstead relates (too long to be here inserted) and, particularly, after the Restoration, his conference, with the late (witty) duke of Buckingham, &c.
Talking over this account of Barkstead's, with the Rev. Mr. Sm-, of Q, whose father had long resided in Florence as a merchant, and afterwards as minister from King Charles the second, and had been well acquainted with the fugitives after the Restoration, he assured me, he had often heard the said account by other hands; those miscreants always boasting that they had wreaked their revenge against the father, as far as human foresight could carry it, by beheading him whilst living, and making his best friends the executioners of the utmost ignominies upon him when dead. Asking bim the particular meaning of the last sentence, he said, that Oliver and his friends, apprehending the restoration of the Stuart family, and that all imaginable disgrace on that turn would be put upon his body as well as memory, he contrived his own burial, as averred by Barkstead, having all the theatrical honours of a pompous funeral paid to an empty coffin, into which afterwards was removed the corpse of the martyr, (which, by Lord Clarendon's own account, had never truly or certainly been interred; and, after the Restoration, when most diligently sought after by the Earls of Southampton and Lindsey, at the command of King Charles the second, in order to a solemn removal, could no where in the church where he was said to have been buried be found,) that, if any sentence should be pronounced,