This image from a German engraving, published in 1649, depicts the execution of King Charles I.
On 30 January 1649, Charles I was beheaded outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall. The assembled crowd is reported to have groaned as the axe came down. Although the monarchy was later restored in 1660, the execution of Charles I destroyed the idea of an all-powerful and unquestionable monarch.
Disagreements between Charles I and Parliament had been simmering for several years. Charles had been exercising too much power, such as raising taxes unreasonably and imprisoning without trial those who did not pay up.
Civil war broke out in 1642, and although Charles’s Royalist army had the upper hand at first his advantage did not last for long. By May 1646, Charles had surrendered. Parliament claimed that the king ‘had a wicked design totally to subvert the ancient and fundamental laws and liberties of this nation’, and that he had ‘levied and maintained a civil war in the land’. It was decided (after the Royalists had been removed from Parliament and the opinion of the House of Lords ignored) that he would be executed.