Killers of the King: The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I

Charles Spencer

Bloomsbury Press,  January 2015

January, 1649.
The English Civil War Draws to a Close.

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 agonizing and degrading ends while others saw out their days in hellish captivity.

Charles Spencer explores this violent clash of ideals through the individuals whose fates were determined by that one momentous decision, examining as well the far-reaching consequences for England. A powerful tale of revenge from the dark heart of royal British history and a fascinating insight into the dangers of political and religious allegiance in the seventeenth century, these are the shocking stories of the men who dared to kill a king.

hardcover | ISBN: 9781620409121 | Publication Date: January 2015


"This is one of history's great manhunt stories, expertly, briskly told. Spencer is a graceful and particularly evenhanded writer"
-- The Dallas Morning News

"Engaging, action-packed history"
-- People Magazine

"A sometimes grisly nonfiction thriller"
-- Vanity Fair

"The author is a practiced writer with an eye for striking details"
-- Wall Street Journal

"A clever and illuminating book. Very good . . . Dense and well-researched . . . Spine-tingling detail"
-- The Times (UK)

"[A] brilliant book"
-- The Independent (UK)

"History with the pace of a thriller and I learned much I never knew"
-- Julian Fellowes

"Splendidly narrated but utterly gruesome . . . Gripping from first to last."
-- Mail on Sunday (UK)

"Beautifully written and meticulously researched."
-- The London Evening Standard (UK)

"Spencer's excellent popular history will appeal to fans of Alison Weir and those interested in British history"
-- Library Journal

"Killers of the King is immensely readable . . . an elegantly written history"
-- Maclean

"While many readers already know the story's end, Spencer purposefully builds anticipation over which men suffer excruciating death and which ones literally get away with murder"
-- Publishers Weekly

"Perfectly balanced . . . One of the best books on the 17th century I have read since CV Wedgwood's book, The Trial of Charles."
-- Evening Standard Books of the Year (UK)

"Spencer is a snappy story-teller . . . he shows an eye for the details, gory or intimate."
-- The Guardian (UK)

"Spencer tells the stories of [the regicides] with great verve and skill . . . It is gripping material and Spencer more than does it justice."
-- The Literary Review (UK)

"Spencer paints a sympathetic portrait of these men, most of whom believed they acted in the interests of their country"
-- Booklist

"A gripping account of the aftermath of Britain's revolution, during which both sides fought for justice and Christianity and behaved despicably"
-- Kirkus (starred review)

" A well-researched and beautifully written story of intrigue, betrayal and Realpolitik."
-- Andrew Roberts, author of Napoleon: A Life and Napolean and Wellington

"This masterful account of the fate of the regicides breaks all barriers in weaving the lives -- and the grim fates -- of many into a seamless, pacy and riveting read, underpinned by the depth of scholarship for which Charles Spencer is renowned. An exceptional and highly original history book that sheds new light on one of England's bloodiest episodes."
-- Alison Weir, author of Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World

"Imagine The Odessa File reshaped to the contours of the seventeenth century, and you will have some idea of the pleasure to be had in reading Killers Of The King. The virtues of a thriller and of scholarship are potently combined."
-- Tom Holland, author of Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic

"Outstanding: a thrilling tale of retribution and bloody sacrifice, unflinching idealism and craven miscreancy. In fluent, measured, often witty prose, Killers of the King brilliantly evokes that febrile time when the hunters became the hunted and vengeance was avenged. Like all the best history books, it succeeds not only in telling a remarkable story, but also in illuminating the entire age."
-- Jessie Childs, author of God's Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England