Killers of the King

Charles Spencer
941.06 SPE


Reviewed by
Clint Alley, Assistant Director


Charles Spencer will be remembered as many things. He was the brother of the late Princess Diana. As her eulogist, he pulled no punches, placing the blame for her death on the global news media. The second in line to the British throne calls him ‘uncle.’ Charles is also the 9th Earl Spencer, making him the literal lord of a 13,000-acre manor and a 500-year-old mansion. 

But of all the hats (and coronets) he wears, perhaps the one that suits him best is that of historian. Lord Spencer has written several books about the history of the English Civil Wars of the 17th century. Among those is Killers of the King, a page-turning retelling of the fates of the 80 regicides who were held responsible for the 1649 execution of King Charles I.

The story ranges far, following the regicides from Britain to the Netherlands, France, and even far-away New England, to which at least two of them escaped and lived long lives under assumed names. Together these killers of Charles I comprised a list of Charles II’s most wanted fugitives. As one judge instructed a jury during a regicide’s trial in 1660, “…you are now to enquire of Blood, of Royal Blood, of Sacred Blood…This Blood cries for Vengeance, and it will not be appeased without a Bloody Sacrifice.” Many of the regicides were indeed captured and suffered horrifying deaths at the hands of the king’s executioners, but several also escaped, some concealing their trails so effectively that we still aren’t sure what happened to them.

Lord Spencer does a masterful job of drawing the reader into the historical events he describes. In his hands, the regicides once again become living, breathing people, with a diverse array of fears, hopes, motivations, and beliefs. His descriptions of brutal early modern execution methods will leave the reader wincing in disbelief, and his assessment of how these men fell from the top of the pile to the top of the wanted list in the space of a decade will urge the reader to find out more.

killers of the king.jpg