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“The most interesting thing about King Charles the First is that he was 5 foot 6 inches tall at the start of his reign but only 4 foot 8 inches tall at the end of it. . .”

Monty Python’s “Oliver Cromwell” (1989)

The upheavals of the 17th century have inspired comics, musicians and artists ever since. Here are the first verses of British singer-songwriter Bill Bragg’s version of “The World Turned Upside Down.” It made it into the charts in 1985 with its message protesting land being taken from the poor by the rich:

In 1649
To St. George’s Hill
A ragged band they called the Diggers
Came to show the people’s will

They defied the landlords
They defied the laws
They were the dispossessed
Reclaiming what was theirs

Across the Atlantic, the story of the regicides who made it safely to the New World inspired books, magazine articles, paintings, operas, and even a children’s book. Here’s the cover of the latter:

Molly and the Regicides (1968)

 

Matthew Jenkinson, in his book Charles I’s Killers in America, speculates that American thinking about the regicides in the years after the Revolutionary War shifted:

“By the 1960’s, the trauma of the assassination of John F. Kennedy on 22 November 1963 (followed by that of Martin Luther King on 4 April 1968 and Robert F. Kennedy on 5 June 1968) may have further deterred American readers from thinking about those who kill their leaders. In the same way that there was little published interest in the regicides after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, if we look beyond Molly and the Regicides the once-popular American regicide industry dwindled after the assassination of Kennedy. Obviously there is a difference between an allegedly tyrannical leader dying judicially after a trial in the seventeenth century (however distressing that may have been to his supporters) and a democratically elected leader being murdered in cold blood in the twentieth. But meditation on the former would have led to dwelling on the latter at a time of national trauma, a trauma intensified by the ubiquity of Kennedy’s assassination. Media covereage made the event unavoidable . . .” (180).

 

 

Posted on: Jan. 3, 2022

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