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Pepys and the Regicides

Alec Samuels

Pepys 1633-1700 witnessed the execution of Charles I in 1649 when a schoolboy of 16, and of the regicides in 1660 when an up and coming young man of 27. He witnessed the execution of Colonel Harrison, saw the publicly displayed heads of Harrison and Cooke, and witnessed the solemn “execution” of the already dead Cromwell at Tyburn. Pepys faithfully and loyally served Charles II and James II, but it was said that he disliked the royals and many of those around them and was perhaps a secret republican and Cromwellian – he approved of the execution of Charles I at the time – but of course appreciated who was in the political ascendant after 1660; and retired in 1688 when James II fled.
The Tyrannicide Brief by Geoffrey Robertson QC, Vintage, 2006, is a detailed study of the trial of Charles I and the trial of the regicides in 1660, and the legal issues written around the role of John Cooke 1608-1660, the Solicitor General at the time of the trial of Charles I, and who was subsequently convicted and executed as a regicide in 1660. Geoffrey Robertson takes a very parliamentarian and roundhead and Cromwellian approach to history, and strongly argues the case for the legality of the trial of Charles I. The Pepys Club does not take sides in the civil war dispute, though members are deeply interested in the constitutional, legal, public and political life of the C17.
A challenging read, as they say.