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
coming in 2022 from Levellers Press, Amherst, Massachusetts
Regicide in the Family: Finding John Dixwell is now available from Levellers Press or Amazon. 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?