The Newgate Calendar - WILLAM BRANDON ALIAS JACK KETCH<BR>

WILLAM BRANDON ALIAS JACK KETCH
Who beheaded King Charles the First.

   IN various instances, it will be observed, that as we handle ancient records, and turn over musty leaves of books, which treat of the final sentence of the law, we seize upon each scrap which can possibly interest our readers,. Though the present case goes beyond the time in which we first date our chronology, yet so remarkable a historical anecdote, cannot, we think, be deemed an intrusion.

   When King Charles I. was doomed to death by the mock tribunal, and self-created judges, the tools of the usurper, Oliver Cromwell, a man named Richard Brandon was the common executioner in London; and, as it were, to heap additional degradation on the head of the royal martyr, he was ordered to perform the bloody work.

   Brandon survived the death of the king but a very short time, having, as it was said, been seized with such severe compunction for being the instrument of the fatal deed, that he could never after look up and smile in the face of heaven. He, died on Wednesday the 20th of June, 1649, being within five months of the day of the martyrdom.

   "The Sunday before Brandon's death," said the old accounts, " a young man of his acquaintance being to visit him, asked him how he did; and if he was not troubled in conscience, for cutting off the King's head. Brandon replied; yes, because he was at the King's trial, and heard the sentence denounced against him; which caused the said Brandon to make this solemn vow or protestation, viz. "Wishing God to perish his body and soul, if he ever appeared on the scaffold to do the act, or lift up his hand against him." And he further declared, that "he was no sooner on the scaffold (to do that wicked act) but he immediately felt a trembling, and ever since, to his death, continued. in the like agony."

   "He likewise confessed, that he had thirty pounds* for his pains, and all paid him in half crowns, within an hour after the fatal blow was struck, and that he took an orange stuck full of cloves, and a handkerchief, out of the King's coat-pocket. As soon as he had descended from the scaffold, he was proffered twenty shillings for that orange, by a gentleman in Whitehall, but he refused the same, and afterwards sold it for ten shillings in Rosemary-lane.

   "About six o'clock that evening, he returned to his wife, living in Rosemary-lane, and gave her the money, saying, it was the dearest money he ever earned in his life, which prophetical words were soon made manifest. About three days before his death, he lay speechless, uttering many a sigh and heavy groan, and in a most deplorable manner departed his bed of sorrow.

   "For his burial, great store of wine was sent by the sheriffs of the city of London, and a great multitude of people stood waiting, to see his corpse carried to the church-yard; some crying out, hang him, the rogue, bury him in a dung-hill; others pressed upon the coffin, saying, 'they would quarter him, for executing the King;' insomuch that the church-wardens and overseers were fain to come for the suppressing them, and with great difficulty he was at last carried to Whitechapel church-yard, having a bunch of rosemary at the end of the coffin, and on the top thereof, a rope, tied across, from one end to the other.

   "The man who waited on this executioner, when he gave the fatal blow to the King, was a rag-man in Rosemary-lane."

   [*Note: According to the present difference of the value of money, this was an enormous fee, and may be calculated not much short of one hundred pounds; and this shews the difficulty which the regicides found to get a man to do so foul a deed.]

   Editor's Note: For an alternative identification of the executioner, see the appendix on the Maiden, or Scottish Guillotine.

 

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