A King Killer.
A Key. A Quest.
A boy of seventeen, standing a long way off in the throng, saw the axe fall. He would remember as long as he lived the sound that broke out from the crowd, ‘such a groan as I never heard before, and desire that I may never hear again.’
Eyewitness to the beheading of
Charles the First
London, January 30, 1649
Published by Levellers Press, Amherst, Massachusetts
Regicide in the Family: Finding John Dixwell is now available from Levellers Press or Amazon in the US and Central Books in the UK. There is also an audio book narrated by the author available on Audible. Read about the research and writing of the book on the Stories page of my website.
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I did not know until I was 28 that I was directly descended from John Dixwell, one of the 59 men who condemned Charles I to death for “high crimes and treason” against his own people. I was named after him, too: Sarah Dixwell Brown, but my father never told me his story. I found it myself, by chance. That chance encounter, in an elegant reading room in the British Museum, launched me on a decades-long quest to learn all I could about the regicide whose story had mysteriously vanished from my branch of the family.
I wanted to understand what led him to make the momentous decision to condemn his king to death. I hunted down numerous scraps of information about Dixwell’s childhood, education, political activities and eventual flight from England. All the while, I struggled with how to feel about my renegade ancestor. Were his actions justified? Was he a criminal or a hero? A traitor or a patriot?