In 1672, on this day at the High Court of Justice King Charles II of England was found guilty of high treason and other crimes, the identical charge sheet also carrying the same sentence as his father, death by beheading in front of the Banqueting House at Whitehall Palace.
Shadow of a KingThe disgraced Stuart monarch had warm memories of Whitehall; after his decade-and-a-half in exile he led a procession towards the Palace on the morning of his thirtieth birthday. Accompanying him was a cheering crowd over fifty thousand strong, including the ranked companies of the army which had been raised during the English Civil War to fight his father.
" ... addicted beyond measure to sensual indulgence, fond of sauntering and of frivolous amusements ... without desire of renown and without sensibility to reproach ... honour and shame were scarcely more to him than light and darkness to the blind" ~ Macaulay.Yet only twelve years later, his popular support had collapsed after a colourful love-life had produced no less than twelve illegitimate children. But his fate was sealed by the relevation that in 1671 he had signed a Secret Treaty in Dover. To the shock of the English people, it was revealed that their King would receive a pension from Louis XIV in return for a secret undertaking to return England to the Catholic church.
The night before the beheading, his death-bed conversion to Catholicism provided convincing evidence of the King's moral and personal weakness. Because it was also revealed that his period of exile was spent without direction or purpose, that he learned the idleness, the informality and the moral flexibility that would come to define his reign after the Restoration.