Today in 1649, Charles I was executed. Mark this by questioning authority all day long. Just don’t question my authority.

Within a handful of years, the king had gone from being the unquestioned leader of the nation to the prisoner of a military junta led by religious reformers, Puritans, who saw their purpose on this earth to make England into a godly nation. That godly nation had no room for, or need for, a king.

In January 1649, Charles was tried in a kind of drumhead or show trial. The charge was high treason against England itself. Charles refused to plead, saying that he did not recognize the legal authority of the court. By the end of the month, however, Charles was dead and the psychic rupture of a nation killing its own king was a trauma that never quite healed in the English imagination.

The next eleven years are known as the Interregnum – the period between the kings. Cromwell led parliament in an increasingly dictatorial and totalitarian manner, eventually becoming a monarch in all but name. He used his position as Lord Protector to wage war against the Irish, utterly devastating parts of Ireland, and the Dutch, as well as to enact new morality legislation at home in keeping with the reformist beliefs of most of his followers.

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