Killers of the King: The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I

Written by Charles Spencer
Review by Gordon O'Sullivan

The 1649 execution of Charles I seemed to signal the end of the Stuart dynasty. The killers of the king, or regicides, certainly believed that. Little did they realise, however, that the Stuarts would return in 1660 bent on revenge. Soon after Charles II’s restoration, sixty men involved in his father’s trial were officially targeted for retribution. They were pursued relentlessly by Royalist informers and assassins with many dying in the most painful manner.

Charles Spencer has written a book that is equal parts detective novel, thriller and horror story. Spencer recounts in whirlwind fashion the vicious betrayals as former comrades turned on each other in desperate attempts to avoid being hung, drawn and quartered. Spencer, whose sympathies are clearly with the regicides, horrifies with his graphic portrayals of the traitor’s death. He also intrigues the reader with his accounts of the Royalist detective work to discover the regicides who had fled abroad, while creating thrilling set pieces where they sometimes managed to escape the regal maw. The sheer number of people in this story dictates that their fates inevitably become repetitive. Nevertheless Spencer doesn’t let his reader escape from his fascinating story of the killers of the king.