Monday, 14 June 2021

Earl entertains with tale of 17th century murder

ONE of the least likely people to utter the phrase “the juicy bits” is Charles Spencer.

ONE of the least likely people to utter the phrase “the juicy bits” is Charles Spencer.

The Earl is the young brother of Diana, Princess of Wales, and famously tore into the press after her death in a Paris car crash in 1997.

However, he was not referring to a recent tabloid headline during a visit to Nettlebed last week but his own story about the death of Charles I in the 17th century.

The 9th Earl Spencer was visiting furniture firm Brights of Nettlebed to deliver a talk about his bestselling book, Killers of the King: The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I.

Eighty people had paid to hear him speak at the Nettlebed Club on Thursday evening — his 100th and final talk on a nationwide promotional tour.

The talk was followed by a book signing session and photographs as well as a buffet at the Bright showrooms.

For those unable to remember their history lessons, it was in January 1649, as the bloody English Civil War drew to a close, that Charles I was executed for high treason.

The monarchy was abolished and Oliver Cromwell became de facto leader of what was effectively the republic of England. Cromwell died in 1658 and the monarchy was restored two years later when the old king’s son, Charles II, took the throne.

The new king set about enacting a deadly wave of retribution against all those responsible for his father’s death — the lawyers, judges and officers on the scaffold.

Some of the “regicides” — the king’s killers — pleaded for mercy, while others awaited their sentence. Many went into hiding or fled to Europe or  America.

Those who were caught and condemned suffered agonising and degrading ends, while others saw out their days in hellish captivity.

The Earl said he first encountered the story several years ago while researching a Civil War figure called Prince Rupert.

He discovered a man called John Okey who was put to death for his role in the execution of Charles I.

From here he was put on a “detective trail” to discover who the other killers were and he discovered a “grim” tale of the fates that awaited them.

The Earl said: “Of the people who wanted to put him to death only one of the 80 men involved disliked him.

“The others thought he had to die for his country. It was time of superstition and people looking to their God for  guidance.” The Earl said he felt the book was a “tale of people who were exceptionally brave”.

“When I write a history book I want people to think ‘that could have been me. What would I have done?’

“There’s less of me as a bloke with a history degree and more of someone who’s telling a story and hopefully making it interesting.

“Tonight is the edited highlights — it’s the juicy bits. I think that’s what people want, not a history lecture.”

He added: “This is the 100th and final talk on it. There were a lot early on and I’ve just been doing a couple of them for the last two months.

“I just hope I haven’t bored too many people in the process! Because I know the subject very well, I never find it too daunting.”

Brights sells about 100 pieces of handmade furniture in its Althorp Living History collection that have been licensed by the Earl and Althorp House, his ancestral seat in Northamptonshire, with some copies and others inspired by the originals.

The firm also supported the Earl’s wife Karen’s charity Whole Child International, which is committed to raising the quality of childcare worldwide.

Brights gives a proportion of its sales to the charity and the evening itself raised £1,500 for the cause.

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