Execution of King Charles I, 1649

Execution of King Charles I—January 30, 1649

“The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.” —Psalm 2:2-4

King Charles Guilty of Treason

On January 30, 1649 King Charles I walked to the executioner’s block to face capital punishment for high treason. This unprecedented action against an English Monarch set in motion Oliver Cromwell’s ascendance to power as Lord Protector, occasioned freedom of worship in Great Britain for all Protestants, and set the stage for a period known as “The Restoration” of the monarchy upon the return to power of the Stuart dynasty.

The Death Warrant of Charles I, Signed by 59 Commissioners

Above the Law

King Charles had come to power in 1625, upon the death of his father King James I. Both monarchs held to a view of “the divine right of kings” to make the laws and raise taxes without consent of Parliament. They considered themselves, in fact, above the law and tried to rule by their own instincts as God’s vice-regents. They also sought autocratic control of the Church through politically appointed bishops and archbishops in a nation that was at once majority Puritan (and in Scotland, Presbyterian) and reliant on Parliament for protection of historic liberties. Charles did not possess the subtlety of his father, nor his common sense. Married to a Catholic princess and favorable to his high church appointees like William Laud, Charles offended many of the nobility and the more reformed of the churchmen.

King James I of England (1566-1625)

Charles I of England (1600-1649)

War on the Scots and on Parliament

When Scotland issued the National Covenant, reasserting their loyalty to the King but rejecting his control of the Church, Charles raised an army and headed North to force the Scots into conformity. In “The Bishop’s Wars” of 1639 and 1640 he found to his dismay that the Scottish army was larger, better equipped, trained, and waiting near the border. After a quick settlement in the first confrontation and a battlefield defeat in the second, Charles appealed to Parliament to relieve the financial woes caused by the ill-advised campaigns. Not only did Parliament refuse, but they made demands on King Charles. Intolerant of challenges to what he believed were his royal prerogatives, Charles raised the royal standards at Nottingham signaling war against Parliament in August of 1642. A series of Civil Wars ensued, lasting off and on for seven years.

Cromwell as Lord Protector

Both sides won and lost battles but Parliament controlled the navy and developed a powerful army under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell, one of the members of the House of Commons. The Scots came in on the side of Parliament though they hoped for a reconciliation with the King. Parliament’s New Model Army won the war and the King was tried for making war against his own people. He argued that no men on earth had jurisdiction over the God-ordained monarch. His accusers prevailed and Charles I was executed by de-capitation.

Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658)

Battle of Naseby (1645)

The regicide was followed by several years of turmoil until the army took charge and Oliver Cromwell became “Lord Protector” of Great Britain. He fought and defeated Scottish armies and Irish, and established the “Commonwealth of England.” It lasted but ten years before the restoration of Charles II, but that is another story.

Walk the Bastions and Battlefields

Our history tours of Ireland and Scotland cover that era in dramatic ways and carry the story beyond the death of both the Stuart Kings and Oliver Cromwell. There is much more to be told and talked about in the death of Charles I and his successors; join us to find out.


2017-08-04T17:02:40+00:00 January 30, 2017|HH 2017|

The Death of Sir Francis Drake, 1596

The Death of Sir Francis Drake, 1596

Was he a free-enterprise privateer or a rapacious pirate? Was he a Christian hero or a thieving reprobate known as “the Dragon?” Was he a bold explorer or demonic enemy of the Church? January 28 marks the death of Sir Francis Drake and, whatever the label in real life, his contribution to the furtherance of the English Empire and the providential success of his war on the water against Spain make him, perhaps unwittingly, one of the great men of his age and a key figure in the founding of English settlement in the New World.

Francis Drake came into the world c. 1540 as the oldest of twelve sons of a Devonshire farmer. The family embraced the Reformation and, due to persecution, moved to Kent, a place more congenial to the Reform but also the coast of smuggling, piracy, invasion, and the fishing and emigration ports of Plymouth and Portsmouth. A life on the sea lured many young men to their callings or their doom, often both. The Drake boys took to the sea.

Sir Francis Drake (c. 1540-1596)

Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533-1603)

After serving as a merchantman and learning ocean navigation, Francis Drake signed on with his cousin John Hawkins, a successful slave trader who sold his cargoes illegally to the Spanish in South America. He made a fortune and shared it with Queen Elizabeth, who turned him loose on the Spanish Main (the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico) as a raider. Although they were not officially at war, the English “sea dogs” preyed on Spanish treasure ships, raided coastal towns, and made themselves a much-feared enemy of Spain with the tacit, and sometimes overt, approval of their Queen. From 1570 to 1573 Francis Drake cruised the Spanish Main, raiding and plundering. If caught, the Protestant English sailors would be subjected to the Spanish Inquisition, tortured, then cruelly executed as heretics and pirates. Although wounded in battle, Drake somehow always eluded their grasp. Drake conducted worship services, public reading of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and prayer aboard ship and readily acknowledged his allegiance to Christ. His hatred of the Catholic Church was not extended to his Spanish prisoners, whom he treated with respect. The treasure fleets funded Phillip II’s persecution and murder of Protestants and Drake saw his depredations as doing the Lord’s work in handicapping Spain’s aggression.

Colluding with French Huguenot corsairs, Drake made several huge hauls of gold and silver and received a hero’s welcome upon his return to Plymouth. In 1557 Drake embarked on his most ambitious cruise. He had become a favorite at court and received the secret approval of the Queen to raid the coast of Peru. Sailing aboard his 200-ton flagship The Pelican, which he renamed The Golden Hind, Drake’s flotilla sailed the African coast then fought its way through the rough waters of “Magellan’s Pass” and into the Pacific Ocean. Only the flagship made it into the Pacific; two ships he burned, one sank, and then returned to England.

Admiral John Hawkins (1532-1595)
Cousin of Sir Francis Drake

Replica of The Golden Hind
captained by Sir Francis Drake)

He raided Valparaiso and caught a treasure ship with immense gold and silver reward. Captain Drake returned to England via the Far East, thus becoming the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe. In the process, he claimed the western coast of North America for England. He was knighted and amply rewarded. In 1588, Sir Francis helped lead the English navy against the Spanish Armada, with heroic success, and only burnished an already legendary reputation.

King Phillip of Spain put a price on El Draque’s (The Dragon) head in the modern equivalent of more than six million dollars which no doubt positioned him as Public Enemy #1 on the Inquisition’s hit list. After eight more years of scouring the Spanish Main, Drake died of dysentery aboard ship after an unsuccessful attempt to capture San Juan, Puerto Rico. He was dressed in a full suit of armor and buried at sea in a lead coffin. Divers have been frustrated in failing to find that coffin in modern times. Drake’s explorations and aggressiveness kept the Spanish on their heels, and eventually made English settlement a viable enterprise. He died in 1596, eleven years before the settlement at Jamestown. The rest is history.

Drake and Hawkins spent time on the Florida Coast and are part of the story of St. Augustine, having burned the fort and the city on May 29, 1586. Join me, Bill Potter, as I lead our Pirates, Presidents, Conquistadors and More! Tour, February 16-18 in St. Augustine, Florida!

1. Sir Francis Drake, by John Sugden
2. Elizabeth’s Sea Dogs, by Hugh Bicheno

Image credits:
Sir Francis Drake (Wikipedia.org); Queen Elizabeth I (Wikipedia.org); Admiral John Hawkins (Wikipedia.org); The Golden Hind (Wikipedia.org)

2017-08-04T17:04:21+00:00 January 23, 2017|HH 2017|

The Irish Free State, 1922

The Irish Free State—January 15, 1922

For centuries the Irish people fought back against English domination. Various risings, wars, rebellions and petitions had been tried, without more than temporary success; often the resistance to Royal rule met with brutal suppression. Henry VIII, Oliver Cromwell and William and Mary all hold special places of execration in the Irish history books. The Protestant Reformation had not taken hold among the Irish, and their continued loyalty to the papacy and the attending powerful influence of the Romanist priests kept them at odds with the crown and English Church. The seizure of Irish property and establishment of the English Church and English plantations, along with the immigration of Protestants from Scotland often created hostile relations with the native Gaels. The six northernmost counties, in fact, eventually became majority Protestant. In 1922, the legislative relationship with England changed forever and, in the words of Michael Collins, the Irish people acquired “the freedom to obtain freedom.”

King Henry VIII of England

Oliver Cromwell “Lord Protector” of England (1599-1658)

The Irish desire for independence from Britain was not without sympathizers in England prior to the 20th Century. William Ewart Gladstone, probably the best of the 19th Century Prime Ministers, proposed a sort of “home rule” for Ireland, but his plans were quashed by the House of Lords. The Irish MPs, often disunited in their goals and strategies, were always a small minority in Parliament, and any desires for independence faced overwhelming disapproval, even from some of their own representatives. In the early 1900s, sentiment for possible home rule for Ireland revived among many British politicians after the Liberals were returned to power in 1906, but World War I intervened in 1914, putting all that talk on Parliament’s back burner. In the Emerald isle, however, powerful intellectual and cultural forces had chipped away at the unionist majority, and men and women with a more radical agenda determined to make a bid for independence while the Great War distracted Great Britain.

Michael Collins (1890-1922)

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

In the 1890s an Anglo-Irish literary revival occurred in Ireland, led by William Butler Yeats. At the same time a resurgence in speaking and promoting Irish Gaelic language took root among those seeking to distance themselves even further from English norms — Ireland for the Irish. Three political organizations experienced a resurgence as well — Sinn Fein, led by Arthur Griffiths, The Irish Republican Brotherhood, led by a new generation of young rebels, and the Nationalist and Socialist movement led by James Connolly. In 1916 they called for a rising in Dublin, which occurred Easter week. The shootouts with government forces, in the end met with defeat and retaliation. The victors condemned to death ninety of the revolutionaries and ended up hanging fifteen over international protests. They declared martial law, rounded up some who were innocent and a few suspects were shot out of hand.

General Post Office Dublin (GPO)
Headquarters for Easter Rising, 1916

Inis Mor in Gallway — Banishment Site for Cromwell Persecution

Such panicked reaction “played into the hands of Sinn Fein,” who won seventy-three seats out of a hundred in the 1918 general election. They styled themselves the Dial Eireann and began a policy of passive resistance against the union. The “Anglo-Irish” war erupted from 1919-1921, “a struggle characterized by guerrilla warfare, ambushes, raids on police barracks, and planned assassinations on one side, and reprisals, burning up of towns, executions and terrorism on the other.” The war pitted the Irish “Volunteers” against the “Auxiliaries” (former WWI officers), the ”black and tans“ (mostly out-of-work former WWI veterans recruited in Northern Ireland and England), and the British soldiers and police. The truce of 1921 brought the two sides together and the creation of the Irish Free State resulted. The legislative union of 1800 was resolved just short of total independence. No one was totally happy, but the path to a totally independent Irish Republic had begun. Sinn Fein divided. Michael Collins — one of the architects of Irish freedom — was assassinated by his fellow Irish nationalists. The Northern six counties opted out and “the troubles” presaged a rocky future.

Join us June 20-30 for our grand tour of the Emerald Isle! We will visit key sites important to the struggle for Irish independence and look into the modern history of Ireland, fraught with discord, but with many signs of God’s grace in its past and present. There are almost forty million Americans who claim Irish descent. For them it’s a visit to the homeland, for the rest, just a place of utter beauty, providential history, music and culture. Tour information forthcoming soon!

2017-08-04T17:05:35+00:00 January 16, 2017|HH 2017|

Andrew Jackson at New Orleans, 1815

“When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the LORD thy God is with thee…” —Deut. 20:1

Andrew Jackson at New Orleans, 1815

In 1814 I took a little trip
Along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip
We took a little bacon and we took a little beans
And we caught the bloody British in the town of New Orleans

British Target: New Orleans

From January 8th through the 15th, a hodge-podge of an American army led by General Andrew Jackson — a Tennessee politician and militia general — prepared to stop the attempt of a British army, fresh from the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte in Europe and led by the Duke of Wellington’s brother-in-law General Sir Richard Pakenham. The British target was the city of New Orleans. If Jackson failed, His Majesty’s redcoats would gain control of all the trade down the Mississippi River and perhaps prevent the Americans from ever expanding further westward.

General Andrew Jackson (1767-1845)

The British Battle Line at Chalmette

Jackson’s Riff-Raff Army

In the previous year, Jackson had led his troops into the territory that would eventually become Alabama, where he destroyed the power of the “Red Stick” Creeks in an Indian war within the larger War of 1812. He also invaded Florida and shocked Spain by seizing Mobile and storming Pensacola, two cities held by England’s Iberian ally. In November of 1814, General Jackson entered New Orleans and began to assemble a force to contend with the Redcoat storm sailing toward the Queen City with more than 14,000 veteran troops aboard. Jackson’s force at the time of contact would amount to some 4,700 men, including militias, U.S. Regulars, Mississippi cavalry, Africans, pirates, Choctaw warriors, townies and miscellaneous river riff-raff, volunteering for action. On paper, the contest looked like a textbook manual on diversity but not particularly promising for American success.

We looked down the river and we seed the British come
There musta been a hundred of ’em beating on the drum,
They stepped so high and they made their bugles ring
We stood beside our cotton bales and didn’t say a thing

The Landmark Events Tour Group at Chalmette Plantation

Jean Lafitte’s Pirates Played a Role in the Defeat of the British

The Battle Begins!

Jackson’s men constructed simple field works perpendicular to the Mississippi River near Chalmette Plantation. They threw up an earthen parapet reinforced by cotton bales. Eight batteries of artillery were positioned in the line, including those manned by pirate gunners sent by Jean Lafitte to bolster the American infantry line.

On January 8, the British regiments lined up to attack the first American line established behind the Rodriquez Canal and the artillery emplacements across the Mississippi River. The two-pronged tactical plan — while initially sound — faced a number of providential mishaps from its very beginning. The fog lifted while they were getting into position and the American artillery thundered out. When the Redcoats reached the fifteen-foot-wide, eight-foot-deep canal, they discovered that the men detailed to carry the fascines and bridging materials were not in position; the infantry, many armed with highly accurate rifles, opened fire.

We fired our guns and the British kept a comin’
There wasn’t nigh as many as there was a while ago
We fired once more and they began a runnin’
On down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico

Andrew Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans

A Remarkable Victory for Jackson!

The defenders repulsed the two main British assaults, killing two Major Generals, including the commander, General Pakenham. The British artillery shells buried themselves in the wet mud and cotton bales and the American artillery and marksmen devastated the red-coated battle line. When the butcher’s bill was added up in that final engagement of the campaign, His Majesty’s forces had 2,600 casualties and the Americans 13. General Jackson gave a merciful Providence the credit, along with the Divine means — his hard-fighting soldiers. This most lop-sided victory secured New Orleans for the United States, and with it the Mississippi River and all the lands to the west (in time). Andrew Jackson became a household name and, in a few short years, he was elected to the Presidency of the United States, a time period that has assumed his name as “The Jacksonian Era.”

Listen to Johnny Horton sing ‘The Battle of New Orleans’ on YouTube

2017-08-04T17:06:28+00:00 January 9, 2017|HH 2017|

Charles Spurgeon’s Conversion, 1850

Charles Spurgeon’s Conversion—January 6, 1850

The “Prince of Preachers” did not start out that way. Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s grandfather, who preached for more than fifty years, and his father, for sixteen, were both Dissenting “Congregationalist” ministers of Puritan heritage in Essex, England. Little Charles grew up in both manses, hearing the Gospel many times and loving to read books of spiritual benefit. He easily memorized the catechism and all of Isaac Watts’ hymns. His mother taught him the Bible and prayed with and for him daily. Although taught by two Anglican rectors at the age of fourteen — both of whom pressed him with the Gospel — he still denied “owning” Christ as his Savior. Spurgeon describes himself at that time as “careless,” and “mischievous,” but not truly born again. He said he hoped that God would save him some day; he knew the Gospel well but his “heart was cold” toward the Lord. He did not associate with evil peers or participate in wayward activities, but still would not repent of his sins.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

Spurgeon Preaches at Surrey Music Hall, 1858

On January 6, 1850 young Spurgeon was supposed to join his father at church on a Sunday morning, nine miles from his home. Because of a severe snowstorm he ducked into a Primitive Methodist Chapel in Artillery Street close to his home. Likely few people in England possessed as much knowledge of the Scripture or had heard the Gospel more times than Charles Spurgeon. He stated in his autobiography that “I had heard the plan of salvation by the sacrifice of Jesus from my youth up; but I did not know any more about it in my innermost soul than if I had been born and bred a Hottentot.” He had heard that Primitives “sang so loud it made your head ache,” but he did not care, “I wanted to know how I might be saved, and if they could tell me, it didn’t matter if my head ached.”

The pastor was a no show from the big snow, but a layman got up and read “LOOK UNTO ME, AND BE YE SAVED, ALL THE ENDS OF THE EARTH.” For ten minutes, “in broad Essex,” the man invited the hearers to look to Jesus and “I saw at once the way of salvation . . . and the Holy Spirit, who enabled me to believe, gave me peace through believing.” Following his re-baptism and joining a church, Spurgeon was called to preach. In less than a year of his conversion, Charles Haddon Spurgeon became the pastor of a small Baptist Church in Cambridgeshire. All those years of learning, prayer, memorization, and loving family instruction had prepared him for God’s unique calling as the greatest and most effective preacher of the Victorian era.

Spurgeon’s Metropolitan Tabernacle in London

Inside the Metropolitan Tabernacle

Raised in a Congregationalist home, taught by Anglican instructors, saved in a Primitive Methodist Chapel, he became the prince of preachers in a Baptist pulpit. In the course of his ministry he regularly preached the Gospel to congregations of 5-10,000 people at a time, once more than 26,600 people in the Crystal Palace, in the days before electronic amplification. Stenographers recorded his sermons which have been compiled into multi-volume sets. His published devotionals, articles, and sermons are all still in print 120 years after his death.

The providence of God ordained a snowstorm to be the occasion of drawing fifteen-year-old Charles Haddon Spurgeon to Christ and then guide him to present the Gospel to millions of people from every country in the world; his preparation had begun at his birth. By the time he was seventeen, a pulpit was ready for a man uniquely called to change his generation and those to come. We are called to present the Gospel of Christ to our own children, even to pray for them before they arrive, and anticipate the great things God may have in store for them in His kingdom.

2017-08-04T17:07:25+00:00 January 2, 2017|HH 2017|