TIL in 1649 King Charles I was tried for treason and other high crimes. The King responded in his trial “the King can do no wrong” and therefore couldn’t be tried or convicted. Ten days later he was beheaded.

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Edit: thanks for the platinum! Charles’ main defense is basically a very broad reading of sovereign immunity. But we should parse this carefully in the context of the 17th century. Ultimately I’m going to argue that as tyrannical as divine right kingship sounds (and is), Parliament was just as scary. First, you have to remember that back then the king paid for the government out of his own pocket. Parliament was there to raise taxes for projects the king couldn’t fund on his own (or didn’t want to fund on his own). The king’s power wasn’t checked by Parliament as much as it would later be. Especially when the Hanoverians handed over the funding of government to Parliament. Second, Charles views on divine right were actually not at all weird. If anything, the idea of an established church with the monarch at the head shows how mainstream his divine right claim was. Nobody ever really objected to Charles’ divine right to rule. They *did* object to his policies. More to the point, it’s hard to argue that Charles saw himself as an all-powerful monarch. Before the civil war he had given quite a few concessions to Parliament. I was always struck by what he said about liberty when he was about to get his head struck off. > … Liberty and Freedom, consists in having … Government; those Laws, by which [anyone’s] Life and their goods may be most their own. Charles’ view is that you need ordered government to have liberty. The contemporary view was that God chose kings to rule over people. Note, Charles isn’t saying that he could do *whatever he wanted.* His fundamental belief was that God put him in Earth to be a good king, who made life for his people better. Parliament, an earthly body, was trying to muscle in on something God himself had charged Charles to do. Edit: Sovereign immunity as Charles I described it is tied to the king’s divine right to rule. But divine right is not a license to do whatever you want. It is a license to establish laws and government. Which Charles felt he was doing, and had the right to do. He was, after all, a king. It’s his job to govern. Hell, he paid for government. *But wait, u/AsABlackMan, divine right is bullshit! I don’t care what you say.* Well, yeah. This was the 17th century. Theocracy was generally okay so long as it was *your* favored brand of theocracy. Also remember that Cromwell instituted a Puritan theocracy during the Interregnum when he was king in all but name. I would also point out that a Parliament that can legislate on anything was probably as capable of tyranny as the king. In 1641, Parliament passed bills of attainder against the Earl of Strafford. A bill of attainder is basically a law that says you are outside the protection of the law. Basically, it’s a legislative trial and execution rolled into one. Charles *had* to sign this attainder because he was afraid for the safety of his family. Side note – bills of attainder were so horrific to the Framers in the US that our constitution specifically bans them. Third – Parliament actually formed an army to fight the king. There’s two words for that – insurrection and rebellion. Even today, only the monarch has the power to declare war. Imagine if you were a lawful head of state and then another branch of government raised an army to depose you. Of course you try and put down the rebellion. At his trial Charles was presumed to have pleaded guilty. Which was a weird thing, even back then. Also, Charles never got to hear the evidence against him, and he never got to cross examine the witnesses against him. Centuries later when the Allies put Nazis on trial, even the Nazis got a shot at challenging evidence and witnesses brought against them, but I digress. Aside from sovereign immunity, his other main argument – that the tribunal was illegal and only got its power through force of arms is actually … true. The Act that created the tribunal never passed through both Houses of Parliament, bypassing the Lords altogether. It was probably never going to get Royal Assent, but it also never got a full Parliamentary vote either. Or … maybe it would have gotten Royal Assent if they offered him a fair trial? Charles **did** reluctantly sign a bill of attainder up above. Would it be a stretch to imagine he’d sign a bill that would eventually depose him? Or make him abdicate? This whole mess can be chalked up to playing the game of thrones (you win or you die). But I think that’s oversimplifying. I think Charles is right – you need government to protect people’s liberty and freedom. I think he’s wrong in saying a divinely appointed king is the best form of government. However … a Parliament that raises an army in insurrection, deposes a king, denies him due process, and then **executes him** is a law unto its own. You are no safer with this Parliament than with King Charles.


The most interesting thing about King Charles I was that he was 5’6″ at the start of his reign but only 4’8″ at the end of it.


Side note: Today, when Queen Elizabeth II attends the annual State Opening of Parliament at Westminster to deliver the Throne Speech, the original Execution Order for Charles II is predominantly posted in her dressing room. Just to remind everyone whose turf this is. In return, Parliament must deliver a Member of Parliament to Buckingham Palace as hostage to ensure the safe return of Her Majesty.


“It’s not illegal if the president does it” Tricky Dicky Nixon.


Letting power go to your head will eventually cause you to lose it, either mentally or physically.